Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Freedom

The fireworks were so close overhead it felt like we were almost inside of them. People were whooping and yelling in excitement and then, over the portable speaker played the song "Good, Good Father." Amid the crackling booms and sparkling flashes and excited squeals from children, a few arms raised, responding in worship to
"You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am." 
I looked around at the families who had welcomed us into their celebration and was overwhelmed with what a good father the Lord is to His people. The men and women represented that evening came from all walks of life and experiences but they had come to know the goodness of their heavenly Father. There were men and women who had been bought back from the slavery of addiction, prisoners who had been released with purpose and calling, the lonely set firmly in the family of God, and broken families given new hope and healing. Some have been walking with the Lord for months, others years, all with their own stories of God's redemption on their lives and each playing a part in an urban movement here in Wichita, Kansas.

Our family is blessed to see God's great work in their lives and be a small part in what the Lord is doing in our city through these mighty men and women of God. Our son ran through the crowds and played and rough-housed with men, who in another context or from an outsiders-eye might give pause, and I felt nothing but joy at what he can learn from their brave surrenders to Christ and unashamed pursuit of God's glory in this city. They are taking the Gospel into places and into lives that many others dare not go in the city and the Kingdom is advancing as a result.

A few minutes later, the grand finale of fireworks burst forth in perfect timing with the next song on the playlist and the glorious sprays of color and light against the sky danced to

"You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone
I am no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
."

Celebration of freedom afforded us in this country is not insignificant, but it dwarfs in comparison to the freedom given to us in Christ. The knowledge and weight of this gift swirled through the group like the smoke from the fireworks, nearly as tangible.

It was a moment I will not soon forget. Hearts who once knew what it felt like to be enslaved to sin were unfurled before God, their bodies so small in silhouette against the the finale of fireworks, even smaller before our great God, yet joyful and fearless children standing in the freedom of their Father's love. That kind of freedom is contagious.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Medlens on the Move

New things are again on the horizon for the Medlen family and they are leading us back to one of our favorite places...St. Louis!


God has brought our family on such a journey these past few years! There have been so many highs and lows and he has brought us through and into things we never anticipated. We have had to learn to trust the Lord in new ways and follow him to unexpected places and have been blessed to witness his Spirit move among the urban poor in new and exciting ways.  While our family and roles and ministry locations within World Impact have changed a lot over the past four years, our call and vision to empower urban leaders to plant healthy churches in the city and see communities transformed by the victory of Jesus has remained. And so, it is with excitement that our family is looking to our next chapter with World Impact back in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2017!




We will be serving as Co-Directors of the St. Louis ministry efforts, working to deepen and expand our rich history of ministry contacts and partnerships. While the mission of World Impact has never wavered, we have charted new strategies and even larger visions for the ministry of World Impact under the leadership of our new president Rev. Efrem Smith. As our family returns to a place we so dearly love—a place with a long history of ministry—we hope to advance the Kingdom in a way that builds on that history and moves forward with the new opportunities and strategies our ministry offers.

Moving is never easy and our family will be sad to leave our ministry team here in Wichita and the many friends and co-laborers for the Kingdom that we have lived and served alongside these past years. However, we are also excited and honored to be able to return to a city that we love, and have never ceased having a burden for, and participate in God’s plans for St. Louis. 



Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Days When

The days when I feel victorious as a follower of Jesus, a missionary, a wife, and a mom are so few in number. The days when I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, inadequate, and like I'm just barely making it through are too many to count. There are days where pridefully I think, wow, I'm totally rocking this working and homeschooling and parenting thing, and then there are most days--heeeeeeelllllppp!!!

Parenting and homeschooling have been particularly hard of late. We've traveled a lot and our Nut is getting old enough to really deal with some older kid attitudes and feelings. Wild Thing is the most exploring and obstinate child I know, which makes for lots of redirection and discipline all while trying to work and teach. School has been a grind this year. While chasing Wild Thing around the house, I've been doing my very best not to scream and run away crying (even while I explain to Nut that this is not an appropriate life response to school lessons) while we together try to navigate some of his particular challenges.

Today has been so hard and it is only a little over half way over. It hasn't felt like a victory at all. Every spelling word and math problem felt like a battle that was technically a win, but experientially damaging. Every attitude of resistance and defiance draining sanity and feelings of competency and patience. I'm really tempted to write today (heck, this week) off as a loss, a monument of inadequacy, but I'm not going to.

After lunch today Wild Thing was napping and Nut was in the backyard serving a debt of disrespect and I sat inside finding shelter in the silence. I felt so tired. I declared how hard today has been and acknowledged how many times I wanted to throw in the towel. My thoughts edged toward feelings of defeat but...

I didn't throw in the towel. Victory. I only yelled a little bit. Victory. I often chose calm and teaching words. Victory. I did my best to practice life and parenting choices that we are being coached in. Victory. I chose (mostly) not to mentally be somewhere else and be present in the thick of it. Victory. I acknowledged that I wasn't going to get the things done today that I had hoped and experienced the frustration but (mostly) didn't let it overpower my approach to parenting and teaching. Victory. I fought for a heart of peace today. Victory.

When I went outside to release him from his duties, Nut Nut handed me a fistful of love in the language of little boys, an assortment of tiny, pretty things picked carefully from among the weeds. I filled my little vase, given from another boy-mom for just these occasions, took a moment to take it in, and then we sat back down at the table to finish school.


I am thankful for the days when the Lord lets me see victory more like a bouquet of pretty weeds and an unspoken commitment from the ones you love to imperfectly keep doing hard things together and less like an epic, conquering thrill. It makes more of life feel possible and Christ's grace on my everyday life so much sweeter.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Grandpa

Some people leave legacies which stir nations. Others leave quieter legacies—but every bit as important—which sway the limbs of a family tree. That’s my Grandpa. It’s the little things that add up to be the measure of a man.

Geodes and scientific explanations and t-shirts printed with wildlife. Watches and spotless shoes and a garage all in place. Western novels and handkerchiefs and knives for your pockets. Cheesy jokes and Fudgesicles and meals always eaten on time. Expressive blue eyes and flashing white smile and skin warmed with a tan. Genealogies and Japanese swords and stories from the South. Anxious thoughts and tender worry and his heart on the line. Tight hugs and little gifts and words whispered with love.

Precise. Tender. Sarcastic. Faithful. Strong. Anxious. Generous. Orderly. Quiet. Funny. Simple. Loving. Sincere.

That’s my Grandpa. 

When I try to put my finger on the core of who he was I settle on a man who lived out faithfulness to the Lord through serving his family. My memories of him over the years are always enveloped in the kind of unconditional love that gives you confidence, the kind of love that is quiet and yet so pervasive that it squeezes in around everything life brings and gives you a safe place to land.

When Grandpa slipped me another turquoise Swiss Army knife because green was my favorite color, or listened so intently to me explain, at length, the 7 Colors of Gravity (which totally made sense in my head when I was seven), or expressed his worry over my safety, or shared with all his “girls” things dear to his heart (mostly scientific in nature) he sowed so many seeds of love.

As a young child I didn’t understand that not everyone was given this gift or that living under its warmth and breathing in its life shapes you, like a tree planted in fertile soil under the life-giving sun. However, with each generation and new branch of our family stretching out I can see that legacy of love unfolding. It’s a legacy that is far from perfect but one that is steeped in commitment and generosity and more than a little humor. It’s the little things that add up to be the measure of a man and ultimately a family.

Grandpa’s quiet love and little acts of service laid a firm and rich soil, in which our family continues to grow. I am grateful to have been his granddaughter, and daughter of his son, and mother of his great-grandsons and blessed to take part in his legacy of faith and family and really corny jokes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sweet Victory for the City

One of the church planters stood at the front of the room rocking slightly back and forth as he remembered the road that brought him to a place of leadership. It was the closing service and testimony time for Evangel School and with an incredulous smile on his face he saw himself through the eyes of people who knew him before he followed Jesus and said, “Everyone would say, ‘Not him! Not him.’”

Then his smile grew grateful, “But God,” he declared.

Wichita’s first Evangel School of Urban Church Planting was full of moments like this—acknowledgements of weakness and lack of worldly qualifications but of a big God, who, as another woman attending claimed, “can use us beyond what we think of ourselves.”

So much work and prayer went into the three days these church plant teams gathered and I think each of us, whether attendees or staff, came away with another glimpse of God’s grand, redeeming vision for our cities. It renewed in my own heart just how important something like Evangel is for urban church planters, who are short on resources and support and encouragement, and yet, they still put themselves on the front lines to win back the lost. What an honor it is to serve and encourage and challenge and learn from these men and women who lead, not because they feel qualified but because God called them. And, what a blessing it is to be able to arm them with resources and training that will help them fight the battle ahead.

God did unexpected things through our first Evangel School, yet even in the unexpected, the expected happened. The Spirit was present and leading and releasing individuals and teams from strongholds. Teams had the time to dream and clarify and recommit with and to one another. Our Evangel Coaches were able to speak life and encouragement and wisdom into leaders who so often give but rarely receive. Iron sharpened iron as the church planters shared their struggles and vision. Big dreams were spoken and courses of action were charted.


While each team left in a different stage of planning and execution, they all left with a taste of what another of the church planters described as “sweet victory”—the kind of sweetness that only comes with victory in Christ and makes you want to declare “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps 34.8). And, really, in the center of all the best church plant strategies and philosophies and in the heart of every good church planter is the acceptance of Christ’s sweet victory and the burning passion to pass it on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Brought Together to be Sent Out

This past weekend church planters from California, Colorado, Texas, and Kansas converged at our World Impact ministry hub in Wichita for our 2nd Annual Christ the Victor Conference. It was an honor to serve them through a weekend of training, encouragement, and vision-casting!

During the conference, I looked around the room at this relatively small gathering of diverse men and women drawn together by the Holy Spirit and a common goal, and I felt an overwhelming conviction that we haven't even begun to see what the Lord will do through this movement of churches.

They are a serious, fun-loving, brave, humble, competent, bold, and passionate group of men and women who are willing to pour themselves out as an offering in some of the most difficult communities around.

The most dangerous neighborhoods in their cities? They want them for Christ. 

Brothers and sisters in prison? They plan to shepherd them.

Individuals in bondage to addiction, brokenness, and poverty? They share their life and Christ's love with them.

During one of our sessions about the mission of the Christ the Victor Movement (CTV), a staff member shared about the grandness of God's vision for the world's redemption. He said, "He wants it all, so we want it all!" I can't think of a better summary of the heart of these leaders and the desire of our missionary staff as we work to equip and empower urban church planting!

This CTV family was brought together this weekend to be sent out again, renewed and empowered. Jesus Christ is the Victor. He is victorious over every form of darkness and bondage and barrier. Our cities need to hear this message of hope and this is precisely the message that these urban leaders speak to their churches and neighborhoods. May God's kingdom continue to advance in the city and to him be all the glory!

(World Impact staff and conference attendees)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lives Matter

Life has been at the epicenter of current events these days—who gets to live and what the state of their life should be is bantered around on social media like an abstract topic. I have struggled with how and when to weigh in, feeling the burden of silence and responsibility of speaking out. What do you say when all day it seems like people are saying everything and nothing?

Recently a friend and inner-city pastor said something that inspired and challenged me. He said that we must continue to fight evil and stand against the devil, but we must always position ourselves to be for people.

Those words have lodged in my heart and mind and I’ve been processing how it would change the world if we truly operated from a place that was for people—how it would change our conversations if we took a stand against evil, but were for people.

This is not an easy task. I hear the counter argument rising, “But, people….” I hear that. I struggle with that too. There certainly are people carrying out evil in the world. It’s hard not to watch the Planned Parenthood exposé videos and not feel disgust towards people. It’s hard not to read about a member of Isis murdering innocent lives and not feel hatred.  It’s hard to see another African-American life lost in a confrontation with the police and not want to wield blame like a sledgehammer. But the Bible makes it clear that our battle is not to be against people, our fight is against spiritual forces of evil.

In all of Jesus’ and the apostles’ ministry it is made clear that people matter to God. Lives matter to Christ and his followers. What would it look like if we, as Christians, decided to be for people? What if we acknowledged them all as important—not by lumping them all together and blithely saying “all lives matter,” but by looking each person in the eye, listening to them, caring about them, sharing their burden, and saying you matter. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He didn’t just say “Everyone is important to me,” he looked up in a tree and called Zacchaeus by name and went to his house. When you acknowledge the worth of a person it’s hard to just walk away. It’s hard to shush them, to judge them, to hate them.

It is challenging to be for people. It gets messy and complicated and it requires a lot from us, but it’s what Jesus modeled. It will require us to provide solutions for women seeking abortions, to listen to our African-American brothers and sisters as they express grief and anger and to work for justice where there is obvious inequality. It will require that we serve and love people who live lifestyles we don’t agree with.  It will require us to stand for truth in love. Being for people means we pray against spiritual forces and pray for those who are oppressed and those who are in bondage because each of their lives matters to God.

Black lives matter. Police lives matter. Baby lives matter. Pregnant women’s lives matter. LGBT lives matter. Impoverished lives matter. Orphan lives matter. Felons’ lives matter. Muslim lives matter…. Your life matters.

Being for people means we are willing to see people where they are, call them by name and declare their specific worth. We have to be willing to go to their house and listen to their stories and carry their burdens. 

After all, it’s what Jesus did. Why would we think we should do anything different?