Superman, Kryptonite and a Strong Sequel

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Just a few day ago, Deanna and I celebrated the fifth anniversary of the day God saved my mortal life: June 21st, 2008. I'm not waxing maudlin here; anyone with a similar testimony (and there are many of us) will tell you... There is something particularly sweet, no, supernaturally sweet, about being given a "second chance," a "sequel" to one's life on this planet. 

And I desperately needed a sequel; I just didn't realize it! But that wasn't all I needed. As many of you know, after God saved my life, He saw fit to allow me to press on with some new challenges. [1] 

Note: From a global Kingdom perspective, it's hard to even say the word "challenges" out loud, when writing from the safety and comfort of our air-conditioned home in the suburbs, in a country where, so far, at least, I'm still allowed to preach the Gospel, unfettered, without anyone holding a gun to my head. 
Not to mention the fact that my "momentary light affliction," which, by the way, is producing for me an "eternal weight of glory," pales in comparison to what so many of our friends and family, and so many of you, are going through. (See 2 Corinthians 4:17)

Truth is, this journey of "pressing on" has become the greatest gift I never wanted. To put it in simpler terms, Deanna likes me better now.

My son (in-law) Adam and me at the top (8600') of the infamous Incline in Colorado Springs, a 2100' elevation gain in 2800 steps. (Dude...)

My son (in-law) Adam and me at the top (8600') of the infamous Incline in Colorado Springs, a 2100' elevation gain in 2800 steps. (Dude...)

You see, I've always been driven. The first mountain I ever climbed was the tallest in the continental US; the first race I ever ran was a marathon; the first prayerwalk I ever led was across the country. You get the picture.
 
And just like every other gift-mix God sovereignly hard-wires His children with, being a driver can be good and bad. (Just ask Deanna and the kids.) To be frank, until all this drama five years ago, my connotation of "weakness" was akin to name-calling... 

But by God's grace, I'm starting to learn in real life what I'd only understood in Biblical theory: that His strength CANNOT be perfected in me without a corresponding weakness on my part.

My wife is teaching me.
A few months ago, on a particularly beautiful spring morning, Deanna and I were sitting on our front porch steps, sipping (my) coffee and (her) tea. We'd just returned from a criss-crossed blitzkrieg of travel, where we'd barely had a chance to exhale, so this stolen moment together was all the sweeter...

"This is nice," I said.

"Yes," she replied, "It's the first time you've talked to me in six months."

Needless to say, she got my attention. Mind you, she said this very sweetly, with a smile on her face and her arm wrapped around mine. I knew she wasn't being literal, and she knew I knew. But still...

Turns out it wasn't about her feeling neglected; she was worried about me. 

She told me that ever since I'd received my marching orders last summer for CapitalWalk, she'd hardly seen me, even when I was in town. She was glad that I was feeling stronger much of the time, but she was more than a little concerned that I was overdoing it, big-time.

She was right.

So I'm taking steps to repent. 
We were going to start our first tour of 100 cities right after Memorial Day, but now, I've moved it to the fall. (Working on the blueprints right now.) 

I'm also going to finish re-building our house from the water-damage it sustained while we were prayerwalking on the West Coast in the spring of 2012. Since then, life has been one big blur. We've been living in our guest room for over a year now. 

Deanna has been unbelievably patient, and not just about the house. I don't want to exploit her grace; I want to honor it.

And neither of us would mind a little more porch-time...

Our friends are also helping me learn.
A few weeks ago, while in a prayer meeting with a small group of faithful and trusted friends in Ohio, one of them asked me to share how I was doing. (Me, personally, not just the ministry.)

I started in about Deanna and me on the front porch...in Technicolor detail. As I was telling the story, it finally hit me... "I'm overwhelmed." 

Take note that I'm using the "o"-word as a confession, not a complaint.

I'm not a victim; I'm a Christian! Without Christ, I'd be a weenie, just another self-obsessed, burned-out Baby Boomer. But in Christ, I'm a warrior; I'm an overcomer. In Christ, I'm an "escape artist."

No temptation (test, trial) has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, parentheses/bold added)

Confession or not, I realized that, maybe for the first time since this mission began, I was majorly strung out. 

Something needed to change. 

Note: When God created the heavens and the earth, He noted His daily progress as "good." The first time He said "not good" was at the prospect of man being alone. (See Genesis 2:18) Of the countless other scriptural examples, here's another favorite of mine: Ecclesiastes 4:9, which can literally be translated, "Two are better than ONLY one..." 

God hasn't called us to be Lone Rangers.
When Pentecost Walk began in 2001, it was a family affair, kids and all. What a wonderful adventure to prayerwalk the length and breadth of the nation together! As the mission transitioned into regional gatherings and prayerwalks, our kids went back to regular (not home) school and Deanna went back to being a stay-at-home mom. 

All these years later, ever since our kids were grown, Deanna's been able to travel with me most of the time, which has been a GREAT blessing to me (and the folks we minister with). But she and I are in agreement that her calling is to be my life-partner and helpmate, not my administrative assistant.

Along the way, we've had a great team around us.
Small bands of pastors joined us as full-time missionaries for each of our cross-country prayerwalks, and there's always been a faithful host of friends serving behind the scenes. Most have been (and will continue to be) missionary volunteers, but, one way or another, I'd always had a full-time right-hand brother/assistant at my side...until five years ago. 

This lack of a right-hand man wasn't a big deal for the first two-and-a-half years, when I was fairly compromised and hardly traveled. But ever since God shifted me into full-throttle, I've been getting more and more buried. This crescendoed once CapitalWalk got underway, and hasn't let up. 

Indeed, last fall's 50-capitals-in-50-days was just a warm-up, a preview of the pace our homestretch will require through 2015.

Neurologically, it is "no bueno" for me to overdo it. No violins; just sayin'... I promised Deanna I wouldn't do that, and I wanna keep that promise.

I shared all this with my friends in that prayer meeting.
Suddenly, my very obvious and longstanding need for administrative and ministerial help was elevated to the stature of a prophetic prayer declaration. 

And so we prayed.  (Are you ready?)

Without anybody pitching anybody, BEFORE WE LEFT OHIO, a dear couple stepped up and unilaterally volunteered to cover our costs for an assistant! These folks had already been generous to our mission for some time, but it was really something to witness God grabbing their hearts to come alongside us in such a profound way.

And they weren't even at that prayer meeting!  God sure was.

Now the work really begins.
When I'm on the road, my waking attention is wholly devoted to the pastors and leaders I'm with. While it is my great joy and honor to work alongside these brothers and sisters...this summer, my primary focus must be planning. I simply cannot do that if I'm constantly on the road. 

PRAYER REQUEST:
We hadn't planned or budgeted to be off the road so much this summer, but we truly believe God changed our plans. Without falling into sloppy-agape foolishness, we believe this catalytic gift-promise from Ohio was supernaturally directed by Him in response to our willingness to adjust course, for all the humbling reasons stated in this detailed narrative. 

Those who have followed us for some time know I'm a stickler for "if the Lord wills" disclaimers when announcing plans. This isn't some faithless attempt to "hedge my bets," but the only way I know to safeguard my soul from arrogance, as noted in James 4:13-16

There's much at stake. What I witnessed on the CapitalWalk was beyond any level of breakthrough I've ever seen. With all my heart, I believe it was a prophetic harbinger of our homestretch, IF THE LORD WILLS.

In the days ahead, just as He just did in Ohio, we believe God will supernaturally direct people to give generously, in very unexpected ways.

Will you pray and believe with us?

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Long before my "sequel..."
Our son, David, bought me a Superman poster for my office, as that's been my nickname around the house for years, especially with him. After the summer of 2008, my family gave me this Superman mug, because now, by God's mercy, the name hits a little closer to home.

I'm thankful for my wife and family who love me. I'm thankful for a treasure trove of friends, near and far, who truly have my back. I'm thankful for an earthly dad who, to this day, is the embodiment of "Clark Kent." But most of all, I'm thankful to the Lord. 

For He alone is Superman.

In Him, may we all be Supermen and Superwomen. May we all be His "escape artists." May we learn to trust Him completely, as He sovereignly allows just enough Kryptonite into each of our lives for His strength to be made perfect in our weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

May each of us walk in the newness of the "sequel" He has planned for us! For His mercies are new every morning! He makes all things new! (Lamentations 3:22-23, Revelation 21:5)

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With much love and gratitude,

Tom & Deanna

 

 

Footnote: 

[1] For those who have been taught that a person of faith can never suffer health challenges (if they only believe), that God would never sovereignly allow such trials in order to shape and perfect His children, I submit that 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 begs to differ. That doesn't mean we aren't healed by Christ's wounds; we are, completely. (See Isaiah 53:5) It just means that God is bigger than us. (See Isaiah 55:9) He is never blinded by the chronological circumstances that blind you and me; He sees the end of our days as clearly as He sees this precise moment in time. Praise the Great Physician!