All the thoughts on social media about beginning a new decade have made me reflective on the last ten years of my own life. In January of 2010, I was a mom to a three year old, and an infant and Allen was the new youth pastor at Streams Church. It would be only a few months later that I was challenged that my own story needed attention, and that I needed healing. It took me a few months to work up the courage to say yes, but I finally did.
We rarely know in moments of courage what the ripples of those decisions will be.
I remember vividly how terrified I was to walk from my car to my counselor's office. The voice of darkness was LOUD, telling me to run. I resisted, though, and that one decision literally changed the course of my life.
What you need to know about that young wife and mom is that she didn't have many dreams, really. Religion had lied to her for so long, that she didn't think she had much to offer. She spent most of her days trying to measure up, hide from her past, and find the approval of the people around her. If people were happy, she might feel a moment's rest. If they weren't, she was in turmoil. God was a distant and disgruntled Father who she worked hard to appease.
Today, I smile when I think of my 2010 self. I hardly recognize that version of me, can hardly find words to communicate all Jesus has done with my fragile and scared "yes". He came close. That's what the last ten years have been about; Jesus coming close to me, whispering into the dark, broken places, and reviving them with light. He became everything, and in finding Him, I found hope, dreams, and a wide open road to the future. He is the reason I write, preach the gospel, and am drawn to the forgotten ones in this world. The foundation of who I am, where I go and what I do today is built on this one thing:
Jesus didn't forget me, didn't move on from me when I needed Him to come close.
Enter this new land, where Jesus has called our family. Utah is stunningly beautiful. I have only to look out my window to remember His greatness, and majesty. Yet, I have felt and seen the sorrow of this land, as well. In only two months, my heart has been weighted with the burden Jesus carries for so many people here. People who at large, have been forgotten by the outside world because they seem fine, seem put together, seem successful...a story I know all to well. Religion is alive and well in Utah.
At the core of my story is freedom from religion. Yes, I was healed from childhood abuse, but that was only a byproduct of the deeper issues. Religion breeds sin. That's all it knows how to do. It preys on the weakness of men, and feeds the flesh whispers of pride and arrogance. Then, when it's had it's fill of your life, it leaves you empty, alone, and broken. I'm so glad Jesus came to me when He did. He invited me into a dance with him, and in doing so, freed me from the slavery of religion. I've been dancing with him for ten years, and the fire of His word has only grown stronger inside of me.
And now, He's called us to a place that needs the same freedom I've found. A place that needs the revelation of Jesus in His fullness. Not a shadow of Him, not a copy, but HIM. Religion is the strongest enemy of the gospel. Religion yelled, "Crucify him!" Love is what kept Him on the cross, and brought Him out of the grave.
The last two months have been hard for our family. Transition is never easy, and we've felt like extra weight was added to it with sickness, trying to sort out finances so we can provide for our family, and the emotional roller coaster of not knowing the plan for our future. Jesus has been faithful, though, in the dark moments when I've cried out.
A few weeks ago, I was running errands, and listening to worship music. I was tired, emotionally and mentally spent, and feeling regret, for the first time since our move. The question loomed large, "What if this was a mistake?" I was sitting at a stop light with a breathtaking view of the mountains ahead, and my mind filled with an image I haven't seen in years. On each mountaintop was an angel, clothed in a red robe, holding a sword of fire. They stood ready for battle. It was so vivid I could draw the picture, if I had the talent to draw. I knew in my spirit they were angels of war. The last time I saw the same angels was when I was making my way to speak for the first time to a group of women, and share my story, years ago. I had the distinct knowing that this moment in my life mirrors that moment. When I said yes to being vulnerable and sharing my story for the first time, I was looking religion square in the face and telling it to go back to hell. No more was I going to hide, no more was I going to appear to have it all together. I chose in that moment to lay my heart bare, and let Jesus do what he would.
Those angels of war came with me that day to defeat lies of religion that held women hostage. Today, those angels stand ready to defeat the same lies that hold thousands of people hostage in Utah. Religion is the fiercest of enemies, but it does not stand above the name of Jesus. I'm proof of it. I had the deep revelation, sitting in my car at a stoplight, that Jesus sent our family here to make war against religion. It's the scariest kind of war. I know the power of it, I know the destruction of it. I might as well be looking into the face of a ten headed dragon. But I know my Jesus. I know how much He loves. I know how strong He is. I know that He looked into the face of that dragon over two thousand years ago and said, "Do your worst." And when that dragon did his worst, he was defeated. Because religion can do a lot of things, but it can never love.
And for the past ten years, Jesus has been teaching me how to love.
Just as Jesus didn't forget me, didn't move on from me when I needed Him to come close, He has not forgotten the people of Utah. He's coming close, with freedom for the captives. He is gathering an army here, and we are just voices added to the fight. He will have his inheritance in Utah.
Ten years ago, Jesus took a broken, terrified young woman, and raised her up as His daughter. He freed her from religion and in that she found healing for her wounds. He gave strength to her voice, and clarity to her vision. He put her on a hill and gave her words to speak that would pull the veil away from those blinded by religion.
Today, I stand on a new hill, looking over a new valley, and Jesus is adding new strength to my voice. I didn't know ten years ago that I was looking this ten headed dragon in the face, when I said my timid "yes". Today, I do know. I know just what I'm up against, and it doesn't scare me anymore. Just as Jesus said when he walked up his hill, and gave His life, I will say to that ancient serpent, "Do your worst". And then watch Jesus set captives free.
Our family has been called not to just plant a church in a new place. We've been commissioned to disrupt and tear down religion, to shine light in darkness, and to point people to the truth of Jesus. The battles we've fought to get here are only proof of what is to come. We're talking and praying and dreaming of how Jesus is going to do these things through us. We know it isn't going to look like it always has. And we are here for it. All of it. Because Jesus is worthy of every sacrifice, and we've pledged our lives to Him. So, here's to the next decade of giving Him our all, no matter the cost.
When I was just nine years old, I made the declaration to my family that I was not "risky people". I have considered myself a seeker of safety for all of my life. Growing up in a trauma filled environment tends to make anyone crave safety above all else. I have always been fascinated by dare devils and risk takers. You know the type, or maybe you are the type. Not afraid of much, willing to do crazy things, not considering the consequences. That's not me. I'm careful, cautious. Except when I'm not.
I was recently writing in my journal about this very thing. I was reminding Jesus that I don't consider myself a risk taker, that it's too stressful to be bold and daring. He interrupted my scribbling with these words...
"You keep calling yourself a seeker of safety, when all you've done and are doing declare you to be a risk taker."
I thought about it, then laughed at myself. When did I become "risky people?" When did I leave the blanket of safety, and become the adventurer? It wasn't in a specific moment of time, or an event. It was gradual. It was little steps that looked extremely risky at the time, that I later looked back on and shrugged and said, "That wasn't so bad." All the while, I was taking these steps, being risky, not knowing that's what I was doing. How though? How did I do it when all I've craved forever is safety?
Jesus has become so vividly real to me, that when He's asked me to take risks, I haven't felt like I was really taking a risk...because I just saw Him, heard Him, was drawn to Him. When I saw Him pointing to something He thought I could do, I just said, "Okay..but will you go with me?" He always said "Yes" and so I never looked back. So, here I am, declaring myself "risky people" as I set off on this journey to an unknown land.
Our family heads out in eight days on an unexpected adventure. It's more than that, though. We aren't just going to this fun new place, exploring a new landscape. We're choosing to enter into a battle, to wage war with Jesus, and other risk takers, for a land that He has always known, always loved, always yearned to call His own. We had to say yes when we didn't know where we would live, and even where our finances would all come from. We said yes when we just didn't know.
The risk is always in the unknown, isn't it?
The funny thing is, when we are holding onto Jesus' hand, the unknown doesn't have to be a risky place, because it's not unknown to Him. It's only risky business walking into the unknown if we are doing it alone. When we lay our lives down before Jesus, we become followers. We might become leaders too, but we are always following. And if we are following Jesus, then we can go anywhere He whispers, because we go together, with Him. I'm risky people, my husband is risky people, and our two girls are risky people. Our secret isn't our stamina, or courage. Our secret is Jesus. He called, we answered, and we follow.
What about you, friend? What risky unknown could Jesus be opening up to you? If you say yes, He'll go with you. I'll leave you with my one of my favorite Narnia moments. It's when the beaver is explaining who Aslan is the the four children. Susan, in her non-risky, cautious way, asks, "Is Aslan safe?" The beaver laughs and responds, "Safe?! Of course, He's not safe! But He's good."
He's good, friend. He won't lead you where He isn't willing to go with you.
The best visual I have ever come up with for how this life with Jesus works is the picture of a tapestry, and the weaver. Tapestries are made of thousands of threads, yet when you step back to look at the tapestry, you don't see all those threads. You only see the picture. It isn't until you come in close that you realize just how many threads are required to make that picture what it is. Our lives are much like those tapestries; full of threads, woven together by the master weaver. Alone, those threads don't make sense or seem important, but when they are woven into the picture that the weaver envisions, they become necessary and beautiful.
Coming into the summer of 2019 our family was confident we knew exactly what picture Jesus was weaving with our lives. We thought we knew what was ahead. We loved our life, our church family, our job and our city. What could be better?
As it turns out, our good Papa had other plans. He awakened a desire in us to be lead pastors, specifically co-pastors. If you are unfamiliar with that phrase, it simply means we feel the call from God to move into a place where we can share the office of pastor. That decision changed everything.
As the summer unfolded, we began to sense our Papa was asking us to step out in faith; not to wait until we knew what was next, but to step out before we knew what was next. With a knot in our gut we took that step, based on the one truth we knew with confidence: God is faithful.
Things rapidly began unfolding. Within a week of our announcement that we were stepping away from our position as executive pastors, a friend put us in contact with a pastor in Utah. It just so happens that he is a pastor who champions women in ministry and couples who want to co-pastor. He invited us, without even really knowing us, to come out to his church in Ogden, Utah for a week of encouragement and refreshing. In our minds, this was just a moment of refreshing God had planned for us. We didn't see it as anything beyond that. Little did we know when we stepped foot in the state of Utah, a thread was beginning to weave its way into the picture our good Papa has been painting of our lives.
We had no idea how beautiful the state of Utah is! Snow capped peaks, lakes, rivers...it's a stunning state! We were captivated by what we saw, but it was more than that. We were immediately embraced by Pastor Rob, his wife Andrea, and the the rest of the staff at Crossroads. It felt like we had stepped into a family we had always been a part of. Over the course of the week, we were able to listen, ask questions about their team style approach to ministry and learn what it is like to minister to people in Utah. It's very different than ministry anywhere else in America. There are 2.9 million people in the state of Utah, and only 2% walk in relationship with Jesus. We were blown away by those numbers, and the more we learned about the statistics of depression, suicide, and the cultural pressure to perform, the more our hearts were burdened for the people of Utah. Before we left, the offer was made that if God was calling us to Utah, there was an open door to plant a church.
One thing we said at the beginning of this journey was that we did not want to plant a church. We were adamant! We don't ascribe to the thought that God loves to "make us" do things we don't want to do, but we do know that He sees what we don't and He is always offering more than we can see with our human eyes. We can always choose what doors we walk through.
We wrestled with this idea. It wasn't the only option on the table. There was a door open that came with stability, security, not as much change...and there was this door to Utah that led to the unknown. Which would we choose?
After all the wrestling, praying and waiting on the Lord, we knew. God's heart for the people of Utah was burdened, and that burden had found it's way into our souls. Everything God has done in our lives the past ten years has been leading us to this moment. The only answer we could offer was a broken "yes".
So, the Keys are off on a new, wild, unpredictable adventure! We know it will be hard, but we also know without a doubt that Jesus has called us to this, and He is worth every sacrifice.
Now for the facts...
* Crossroads Church is partially funding us, which leaves us needing to fund $25,000 for our yearly budget.
* We will spend the first six to eight months acclimating ourselves to our new church family as well as the culture of Utah. During that time we will determine the location in the region where we feel God is calling us to plant our church.
* We will be going through the Foursquare network's intensive geared toward church planting, to help equip us for the road ahead.
If you would like to partner with us, here are the ways to do so:
To give directly without tax credit:
Click here to give one-time or on a recurring basis through our online giving page.
For giving with a tax credit:
One time gifts or recurring monthly gifts can be given through Crossroads by clicking here, entering payment details, selecting Other under Giving Type, and entering Keys Family in the Memo section.
And most importantly, here are the ways we would ask you to pray for our family:
* That we would know the right place to plant.
* For our girls (Lindsey & Lacey) as they make this life-changing transition.
* For connections with those in the community.
* For protection over our family as we engage in spiritual warfare.
We will be sharing here on this blog as the journey unfolds! There is SO much Jesus is saying and doing. We can't wait to share it all! For now, we will leave you with the two verses Jesus gave us as prophetic promises for our journey to Utah:
The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family and go to the land that I will show." Genesis 12:1
"Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land." Psalm 37:34
Blessed be the Name of the Lord...