discerning our calling

SmoothiesEggs-1The wedding, special and anointed as it will be, is such a small piece of what we’re preparing for here. Because, really, we’re preparing to be married to one another for the rest of our lives. And that’s worth probably 20 times as much attention as the decisions about paper products and rings.

We have a future together. We’ve been dreaming and seeking the Lord about what that future will be. Or at least the next steps.

We know there’s a calling on our lives to live a form of discipleship that isn’t for everyone – a form that means forgoing traditional employment and being present and ready for the surprises of a new form of church that the Spirit of God is putting in the collective consciousness of our generation. We are clear on this much: our vocation is, for lack of a better word, ministry. More specifically, it is pastoral, communal, missional, and incarnational. These may seem like so many theological buzz words, but they are trying to get at the heart of the thing. We’re settling into the reality of our shared calling to missions/ministry, and learning how to live into that beautifully.

But the trouble with following Jesus is that He rarely, if ever, unfolds His entire plan in one breathtaking view. And He never hands out cover-all instruction manuals. Instead, He asks us to keep step with Him, relationally and in love, though we have limited sight. He says, “Do you trust me? Walk with me.” And that’s often all we get to know. We’re at the mercy of this Man of tender compassion who is reconciling the world to the Father through Himself.

So when we sit down and say that we’re trying to be obedient to Jesus by pursuing life as a part-time missionaries, we do so somewhat sheepishly because there is a lot about the particulars that we don’t know and cannot predict. We just know that He’s calling us to keep big gaps in our schedules and an ear to His mouth, inclined to hear and promptly obey when we hear Him speak. There have been many many moments of confusion and frustration around what we’re doing here, but there’s a constant reassurance to keep the course anyway. We will keep pressing into Him for guidance and direction, with hearts readied to obey, because that’s where the joy is.

Here is what we see: we see a generation rising up that is hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for something to live and die for in discipleship that is whole-hearted and uncompromising. We see that the Holy Spirit is planting dreams in our collective consciousness, dreams that are potent and alive. We see a new form of church emerging that is simple, accessible, small, and equilateral. It is shining and pure; it is the new wine skin of the Church that Jesus is building. We see a generation that is willing to live on little among those with little so that the shame of poverty may be reduced, a generation who is willing to reorganize their lives to steward creation well, and to go into all the nations with the gospel of Christ.

Most of all we sense that the Father is working to convince His kids that they belong to His heart and that He loves them with an everlasting love. We see the spirit of adoption being poured out on many as they encounter the love of Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We see that Jesus is readying His bride for His return.

And we say, “Jesus, we want in!” This is what He’s given us grace to embrace, individually and as a couple, as our vocations: participation in this new thing He is doing, though it cost us much. We long to see His Kingdom come in our world.

We don’t hope for what we already have, but for what we do not yet have. And as we hope, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:24-25). So, we are hoping for something that is both a here-and-now and a not-yet Word. There is much that is yet far-off, and the images ahead are fuzzy, not yet in focus. But He’s setting us on stepping stones here and now, confirming and affirming to our spirits through many means that each of our steps is in conjunction with His.

What does this look like, practically speaking?

24-7 Prayer[1] is a group of friends scattered around the world committed to the marriage of Prayer, Mission and Justice. This is the context God has put us in to journey deeper into this vocation He’s assigned us. We are involved in 24-7 Prayer USA in three different areas (here’s some copy-and-paste action from their websites):

  • Boiler Rooms: A 24-7 Boiler Room is a simple Christian community (one might even say Church) that practices a daily rhythm of prayer, study and celebration, while caring actively for the poor and the lost. A 24-7 Boiler Room exists to love God in prayer and to love its neighbors in practice.  These purposes are contextualized in community and expressed in a defined location.
  • Transit: a 9-month opportunity to live as part of a Boiler Room community, experiencing a monastic lifestyle of prayer, study and action. 24-7 Transit has been tailor-made to equip disciples for the two great adventures of life:
    – the inward journey of spiritual formation
    – the outward journey of social transformation
  • Campus America: an effort to mobilize [unceasing] 24-7 prayer on all 2,614 university, college and seminary campuses in America in 2010. It’s an invitation to a generation that really could change the course of many thousands of lives, impacting the poor, and spreading the good news about Jesus. What happens as a result of such an unprecedented wave of prayer is really up to God.

Both of us are a part of the core leadership team for an emerging boiler room here in Madison. After a year of meeting to listen to God and build solid relationships, we are venturing out into more practical expressions[2] of our values[3] in the form of regular prayer rhythms, hosting pilgrims in need of rest, and weekly open gatherings for prayer, worship and teaching, alternating with meal-sharing.

The Madison Boiler Room hosts students for nine months at a time who are called Transit Students. As a Transit mentor, Brooke will be discipling four college-aged Transit girls weekly, being present for them in this deeply transformative, beautiful and difficult, year. It is both a small thing and a profound thing, this commitment to be available and attentive to the spiritual formation of these young women.

Brooke and Tim are dreaming about a call to the poor, believing that there is a special place for the poor in the heart of God. We’re pressing into God to give us assignments that will bring us into places where broken and hurting people await the restorative touch of His love. Maybe it will be through volunteering with homelessness organizations, or jumping on board with a team of area intercessors committed to praying the kingdom into one of madison’s poorest (and more crime-ridden) neighborhoods. We hope it will mean frequently sitting down to home-cooked meals with them, not in a social services model, where one is the giver and the other the recipient, but in authentic friendship that invites them into supportive social structures again. We want our home and our church community to be open-handed and have [literal] open doors to the “least of these,” and we recognize a special grace on the two of us to pioneer that effort on behalf of the entire boiler room.

At the beginning of 2009, Tim accepted the role of State Coordinator for Wisconsin in the Campus America project. He is building a state-wide team of student organizers and older-generation prayer supporters across the state, providing guidance for setting up prayer rooms on campuses, traveling to meet with and encourage students, networking them with one another, the Campus Wisconsin blog and other resources for encouragement. He’s also organizing a couple of state-wide gatherings in the 2009-2010 academic year.

In addition to all of this, Tim is working as a job coach for developmentally disabled adults and Brooke is a cook at a small day care center down the street, as well as assisting area wedding photographers from time to time.

Do you know how many days there are pangs of desire in our heart to have a steady, full-time, salaried job with benefits? Do you know how much it eases our anxieties to think about having earned income that is sufficient to meet our expenses, plus afford an occasional vacation? (Oh, it’s tempting!) That’s the track we were individually pursuing before He pursued us right outta there. We would both rather “earn our keep” any day, and we have been always and ever wiling to work. We’ll work part-time no matter what, at jobs that are not prestigious, because it’s an intersection point for people in our city who may be hungry for Jesus. But whenever we go back to God with the question of working full-time again, all we hear is “No”. It seems that in our line of work there’s something to be said for having time and energy to be available and ready, something that a full time job detracts from. We’re beginning to wonder whether we’ve been irrevocably called out of the standard American career track, contrary to all common-sense wisdom. And if not irrevocably, at least for a season of undetermined length.

Now here is some serious financial transparency: Our combined regular, adjusted gross income is approximately $1,450. On this we can get by, as long as we have our student loans in deferment, have no health insurance or health care, never travel, and don’t have any savings. Haha. Obviously, that’s not a great set-up. Our estimated budget, were we to add on those other things that we’ve been doing without, would be about $2,100. That’s discrepancy of about $650/mo.

So here it is again: following Jesus in spite of things not making sense of lining up, in spite of them seeming irrational, irresponsible, or even impossible.

And I (brooke) hope to get better at this thing. I hope to learn how to much more quickly return to a place of confident waiting on God, rather than so often ringing my hands together and scheming to make things work out for us. I’m glad to have such a patient teacher in my Papa God.

[1] http://www.24-7Prayer.us (USA) or http://www.24-7Prayer.com (international)

[2] The 6 Practices of the Madison Boiler Room are as follows: Prayer and Worship, Witness, Justice and Mercy, Hospitality and Pilgrimage, Discipleship (Learning), Creativity, Sabbath and Celebration.

[3] The Madison Boiler Room is a Christ-centered family of friends pursuing authenticity in relationships, unity in the church, and restoration in the world through prayer and practice.


One thought on “discerning our calling

  1. Hi Brooke and Tim

    I spotted your blog in the 24/7 prayer website and decided to read some of your posts.

    God has just called me to another city, to another church community to be a different body part (one they don’t have at the moment). According to God, my ultimate focus is their children’s ministry and of course love,love,love.

    I’m so moved by this post, knowing that there are others out there who are resisting common sense and following hard after Jesus. In less than three weeks I will be approximated 780kilometres away from where I’m sitting now, holding my Papa’s hand, wondering what’s next.

    It’s exciting and fulfilling and terrifying all at the same time, and even when fear grips me I remember that He is always so so so Good to me.

    Thanks again, for sharing your heart and I wish you all the best.

    Love in Christ

    ps. My name is Robynn King. I currently live in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, but will soon be living in Cape Town.

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