Answering The Call

Happy new year everyone!! We hope  you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with the peace, love and joy of Christ  and are starting 2016 with a bang!  CJ  and I were blessed to be able to spend some time with loved ones over the  holiday break, but we also took some time to reflect on the past year and all  that our Father’s been teaching us.  As  we think back over 2015, we see where God moved in the small, quiet moments, as  well as in bigger, more surprising ways.   We’re hoping to share some of these things with you over the next few  months (especially those that pertain to the new direction for Sonshine), but  for this first blog post of 2016, we feel the need to focus on one particular  topic that God has been laying on our hearts of late…what does it look like to  live sacrificially, to serve unconditionally, to answer the calling on your  life?  Not only is this something that we  feel is crucial for us to understand for ourselves, but for everyone, definitely  worth contemplating as we look towards what this new year holds for each of us.


To set the stage, I have to go  back a bit.  If you’ve been reading our  previous blogs, then you know that CJ and I have been struggling with lack of  community in this small mountain town for nearly four years.  In addition, God has been doing some major “shaking  up” in our lives recently, which is definitely keeping us on our knees.  Although it’s not been easy, we know two things  for sure: God refines us through difficult circumstances and He’s preparing us  for whatever comes next.  As a result of  much intentional prayer, we’ve come to believe that God is setting the stage for our next big adventure!  At this  point, we’re not sure where that adventure will lead (although we have some ideas), but we do believe that He’s  calling us away from Colorado.  As we  prayerfully wait for direction, one of the questions that God has laid on our  hearts is, “are you willing to give up everything  to serve me?”  Wow, that stopped us in  our tracks!  Everything? What does He  mean by EVERYTHING?  That got us thinking, what conditions are we putting on serving God?  What are we holding onto for the sake of security?  What fears might be creating barriers to us hearing and following God’s call?  Or to be perfectly honest, what do we just not want to let go of, i.e., a comfortable lifestyle, a nice home, beautiful surroundings, etc.  Through this process of prayer and discussion, not only has God been revealing to us more of His nature, but He’s also been gently exposing more of our hearts, leading us to a deeper understanding of our desires and passions, our fears, and our motives.  All of this, we believe, is preparing us to serve God more fully.  And although there doesn’t appear to be a straight path laid before us at this time, and we’re honestly not sure what that “everything” includes, we continue to pray with open ears and open hearts to whatever He has for us.

In the midst of all of this, we traveled to Texas and Louisiana over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit with family and friends. During our visit, both CJ and I were very open about our struggles and what God’s been teaching us. In our conversations with loved ones, we received encouragement and heard plenty of excitement around our vision for Sonshine, but there were also a few surprising responses.  Having been laid bare in the previous months as we argued with God regarding our thoughts on the subject of our lives (including our wants and our perceived needs), we recognized some of the rhetoric coming from our friends.  For the first time in a long time we felt not so alone, understanding that we may not be the only ones struggling with hearing God’s calling on our lives or defining what that kind of whole-hearted service would even look like! This got us thinking outside of ourselves (and looking beyond questions regarding our specific path), to the bigger picture…what does this look like in more general terms for each and every one of us as Christ-followers? Well, there’s only one place to get those kinds of answers, so that’s where we went..


In Luke 9: 57-62, Jesus talks about this very subject…

57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Each of these men initially appeared eager to follow Jesus.  Yet after reading and re-reading this scripture, it became obvious that each man wanted to define for himself what following Jesus would look like.  The first man offered to follow Jesus anywhere, but he didn’t truly understand the cost, the need for sacrifice…maybe he thought it would be more glamorous hanging out with a miracle maker!  The second man seemed willing to pay the price, but just not yet.  This was not an “if”, but a “when”….once my family is gone and I have nothing else to hold me here, then I’ll follow.  And the third man, all he wanted to do was to say good-bye…at first blush, not sure what the issue was there. I mean, what’s wrong with saying good-bye, right?  But after delving deeper, it seems to me that there was a heart issue with this last gentleman…his response wasn’t whole-hearted, he wasn’t in it 100%, he put something else before Jesus!  Does this scare anyone else?  I mean if we’re talking about a general outline of what it looks like to follow Jesus, here’s what I see:  you’re pretty much guaranteed to be out of your comfort zone, it will require sacrifice, the timing will not always be convenient, your whole hearts need to be in it, and once you’ve been commissioned, you can’t look back! Wow!!  


Let’s take a quick look at another scripture (Luke 18:21-29), which we believe provides additional clarity…

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a] 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God.”

Just one point I’d like to make here…after spending time meditating on this scripture, CJ and I came to realize that our focus in contemplating the question of what it looks like to follow Jesus had been on the “everything”, i.e., what was God going to ask us to give up? What would we have to sacrifice?  I hate to say this, but I believe that we’ve been brainwashed, or at the very least, significantly influenced by the culture that we live in. And I don’t believe that we’re the only ones…we’ve have this discussion with fellow believers many times. Does God really want me to give up everything? Are all Christ followers supposed to be destitute? Let’s take another look at what the scripture says…”When he (the rich man) heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy”. Do you see it? It wasn’t his stuff that was important to Jesus, it was his attachment to his stuff that was an issue.  Like gentleman #3 in the previous parable, this man put something (his wealth) before Jesus. He was unwilling to let it go…this is a heart problem, not an “stuff” problem! The key word is WILLING! In our culture, we’re so consumed with stuff, with security, with ourselves that we often miss the point completely. The point is, it’s ALL about Jesus!

So after having said all that, I want to go back to that original question that God laid on our hearts months ago, “Are you willing to give up everything to serve Me?”, and I’m a little embarrassed by our initial response…it sounds an awful lot like the guys in the first parable: God, I’m willing to follow you if  ________________,  but not if ________________.  I’m sure everyone has their own “what” to fill in these blanks, but I’m not sure the “what” is as important as recognizing that there IS a what.  That was the first step for us, recognizing that we were putting conditions on serving Jesus, defining for ourselves what it would look like.  The next step, asking ourselves the hard questions! Am I willing to be uncomfortable or make sacrifices to follow Jesus? (This may look like leaving a safe comfortable environment, and moving to an undesirable neighborhood to minister to the poor and needy); Am I willing to pick up and go whenever and wherever He calls? (This may mean leaving a good paying job, even though you haven’t put enough in savings to support yourself, because God needs you on the battlefront NOW, not in 10 years when you retire and have a healthy 401K to depend on); Is there anything that I’m putting before serving Jesus?  (Kids, parents, significant other, personal goals, work, comfort, etc).  These are not easy questions, and uncovering the answers can leave us feeling raw and exposed. But they can also reveal barriers to us answering God’s calling on our lives!  Then it comes down to our willingness.  Are we willing to make Jesus our priority, following whole-heartedly, sacrificially and fully dependent on God? This may lead us out of your comfort zone, away from family, into the trenches, working a ho-hum job, etc. I guess what we need to seriously ask ourselves is what’s most important: a few years of being comfortable, living a nice safe and secure life or standing before the throne of grace and hearing our Father say, “well done good and faithful servant… you answered the call, displayed my glory, sacrificed for the good of all, and made the world a better place!”


One final thought in closing, not that we want to get into any deep theological discussion at this point, but CJ and I believe that the time is running short…and God is calling his army!  Having said that, we’re praying that 2016 will be an amazing year of awakening for each and every one of us as we discover what it looks like to live sacrificially, to serve unconditionally, and to answer the calling on our lives!

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Categories: Calling, Community, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Outside the Box

So it’s been about 10 months since our last post. And although it appears there has been little progress on the retreat front, there has been tremendous growth and understanding on the personal front. As always, God is good and ever present in our lives, lovingly molding and guiding us in a deeper understanding of His heart…which brings us to Sonshine. Our original understanding of Sonshine’s focus was that it was to be a retreat center for out-of-town groups. With that focus, we would need a home base (which is still in the works). However, God has recently laid on our hearts that the retreat aspect of Sonshine needs to be much smaller and more intimate than we originally anticipated. On the other hand, we believe that God is wanting Sonshine to be much more than a retreat center…it’s to be a place of gathering, of fellowship, of community!

We look around and see so many lost and lonely people (both inside and outside of Church) and we wonder, who’s caring for them? For their physical needs, their emotional needs, but most of all, their spiritual needs. As Luke writes in Acts‬ ‭2:42-47‬ ‭(NIV)‬‬‬‬‬‬, in the days of the early church, believers were being added right and left because they saw the disciples and other early believers living in radical ways. They saw the love of Jesus being actively lived out and it looked and felt different than anything they had previously experienced. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ The lost found a home in community.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

‭‭ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬So what about the Church today? Does it look different? Are we, as Christ’s disciples, living in this same radical way? The lost are growing in number and finding no place to belong. So what’s the answer? We believe that America is in desperate need of authentic Christ-centered community, like the early church! 

When CJ and I lived in Austin, we were part of a vibrant, God-centered community. It was by no means perfect, but we strove to live according to the scripture above and lives were changed. We did life together, sharing meals, heartaches, burdens, achievements and adventures. We sincerely cared for each other, sacrificing for and serving each other as well as serving the larger community around us, together. And above all we spoke truth to each other (out of love, not in judgment), holding each other accountable to the standards laid before us by our Savior. But I think what really set us apart was the fact that we welcomed with open arms anyone and everyone interested in joining us. This invitation was not a check the box activity based on what we thought we had to do. We, like Jesus, had a heart for people regardless of how they looked, where they came from, what they had lived through, whether they went to church or not and even if it made us uncomfortable. After a while, we looked more like the island of misfit toys than what was expected of a “Christian” community. It resembled a family: young and old; single, divorced and married; some with kids and some without; both mature believers and others just trying to figure God out. And yes, we were a tad dysfunctional, often times angry with or hurt by others within our tight knit community. But one thing never changed, our love for one another and for those that we touched outside our 4 walls. With our open door policy and inclusive nature, the community continued to grow.

What we’ve come to discover since that time is that our community was a rare occurrence in modern day Christian communities. It appears that the way many Churches treat community today is based on a world view of putting people in boxes: singles, married with kids, retired folks, mature believers, cool or uncool (yes, I said cool or uncool! As un-Christ like as that sounds, we’ve been to churches that directed people that were uncool in the world’s eyes away from certain groups, while only “accepting” people of a certain pre-defined standard). How is this Biblical? This does not look anything like the early church described in Acts. We believe that Jesus’ plan for community was to resemble a family in order that we might learn and grow from the diverse life experiences and gifts within that community. If we’re all placed in a group in which everyone is at the same point in their life or has similar backgrounds, can we truly experience the beauty of a community that challenges us, grows us, molds us into Christ-likeness?

Since we moved, we’ve been searching for a Christian community that exhibits the Biblical qualities discussed above. Unfortunately, we’ve been to multiple churches and have always felt like outsiders. In response to the Spirit’s urging, we began inviting couples into our home, in addition to hosting larger gatherings, in hopes of building relationships. However, in the course of the three years that we’ve been here, we’ve only been invited into a handful of homes and very little has transpired from those encounters. When we voiced our frustrations, we were told that we needed to meet people where they were, which in this community, is church. So although we believe that doing life together most often happens outside of the 4 walls of the church building, we began going to Sunday morning Bible study at the church (something that was completely out of our comfort zone as we had always met in people’s homes) and served at the church in multiple capacities. Often folks would say hi and engage in small talk or even offer to pray for us, but we had no sense that people truly cared or were really interested in knowing us at all. There was always superficial conversation, but we were still missing those deep, authentic relationships that we were craving. So we brought our concerns to the leadership. Their response was not what we expected: “things are different here”, “ you can’t expect what worked in a big city to work in a small town”, and “you shouldn’t try to replicate what you had in Austin”. Maybe that’s true…. Maybe the culture is different here. We understand that some people come to the mountains to get away from it all, to isolate. But let me tell you something, Jesus was COUNTER CULTURAL! And as His followers, we should be too!! Biblically speaking, there should be no difference between a Christ-centered community in a big city versus a small mountain town. And as far as replicating what we had in Austin, we recognize that every community is different and it will never look exactly like it did. But we have ONE truth, the Bible. And the core tenets of a Christ-centered community are clearly outlined. Not only do we see them in the early church, but we also see them lived out by Jesus and His disciples. They studied together, ate and prayed together, sacrificed for each other, spent time with and invited in the tax collectors, prostitutes and the like (people outside the “church”). But most of all, they walked many miles together, sharing their lives. How can we not do the same?!

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s been over six months since we last attended our local church, and in that time, only one person has proactively reached out to us and asked how we’re doing. Does that give anyone else pause?

Regarding the local churches that we’ve attended, biblically sound doctrine is being preached from the pulpit. Where we see the disconnect is in the translation! We understand that there are individuals within the church doing good in the community, but what we’re not seeing is a church that is unified in heart and mind, welcoming and loving on those outside the 4 walls of the church. We believe that this condition is much bigger than a small mountain town; it’s true for many churches throughout the U.S. They’ve become internally focused and have lost Jesus’s love for our neighbors outside of the church. Many of them are filled with little cliques which have their backs turned to those new to or outside of the church. At first appearance newcomers may be greeted with friendliness, but there’s not a true welcoming into the community. We often use the analogy of a football huddle to describe these groups, a.k.a holy huddles. Compare that to a church that is looking outward with open arms…which is more inviting? The latter is what Jesus demonstrated!

CJ and I have been believers for a long time and have always been proactive in relationship and community building. For us to not feel welcomed and included, what must others feel? We recognize that being in this type of community requires sacrifice and commitment and can often be messy. But we’ve seen significant life change in the messiness and it’s our belief that this is what God has called us to as His disciples. And that’s why we believe Sonshine is so important, to reflect the glory of our God by the way we live our lives, as a unified body.

Despite the push back of local churches, we continue to invite all people into our home for fellowship, bible study, and the breaking of bread. We continue to be proactive in building relationships and doing life together outside of the 4 walls of the church. What about you? What do you see in your local church? Are you connected in such a community? Do you see a need for change? If so, we encourage you to think and act outside the box. Let’s live counter culturally! Let’s reflect the light of the Son!

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