24
May
13

Really needing some stamps

Several years ago Jesus gave me a promise in regards to our family living on financial support. It was during a group prayer time where we had been asked to write Jesus a letter. Instead he completely turned things upside down, and showed me that the letter that he wanted me to put inside the envelope that we had been given was a letter from him. The letter is us as a family, and the message in the letter is one of honesty, hope, forgiveness and love.

He impressed on me to just write ‘God’ as the sender of the letter, and then I attached a permanent marker and a pencil to the envelope and left it on a chair. What Jesus had invited me to was to allow him to decide how the receiving address of the letter was going to be written. It is his business whether he writes the address with a pencil, so it can be easily and more frequently changed, or if he wants us to be in some location for a long time where he would write the address of the letter with a Sharpie permanent marker.

The symbolism was simple and beautiful, and I heard very clearly in my spirit: “And I will pay the postage!”

Jesus will pay the postage. That’s been our promise that we’ve been clinging to ever since I heard those words from Jesus 5 years ago. We have gone through many challenging situations financially, and he has always been true to his promise. But let’s face it….right now we could really use some more stamps!

I’ve been working on, alongside many other projects that require my attention, a major support raising campaign. Let’s be honest, so far where I’m almost done with it, it’s been hugely discouraging. We really need more monthly support to be able to continue doing what we know Jesus has called us to do. We have received some gifts towards our moving expenses this summer, and we are extremely grateful for those! But as far as monthly gift pledges, we have to accept that right now we are looking at a minus of at least $210. Yep, that was $210 less each month…..

Jesus, we just choose to quietly remind you of your promise. You will pay the postage!

A song I was just reminded of as my thoughts and feelings experience lots of turmoil:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4DgESWtCus

And a classic by Rich Mullins, sung by Big Daddy Weave:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOon2xQNZX0

Torben

14
May
13

Waiting on God

Wow!

Torben

14
May
13

Death, sorrow, baby einstein, sundresses and hope

In the midst of reading about an abortion doctor crushing innocent babies because their parents decided that the babies were an inconvenience, and thinking about lots of personal and family related problems that require much attention, prayers and miracles, I was sitting on a public bus going through the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark with tears in my eyes. Tears of pain. Tears of anger. Tears of frustration. But also tears of hope. My iPod was playing a song that seemed so out of touch with what I was thinking about, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Our God Is In Control from his majestic album, Beauty Will Rise. God is in control? Really?

As I sat there and pondered this, a beautiful 5-year old girl smiled at me. I had noticed her running to catch the bus with her dad who looked like he had the day off. They made it, and the little girl in a flowery dress was beaming with pride when she walked through the bus and found two available seats. They sat and talked, and got off at the center of the city, ready to explore. She smiled at me, jumped down from the bus, and walked happily away with her daddy. Just the way life should be.

Early this morning Marcus and I were watching a Baby Einstein DVD about colors while eating breakfast together, and my 15-month-old son got very excited when the color yellow was presented with a picture of a field filled with yellow, perfect daffodils. He was so happy. So out of touch with everything that was going on in his daddy’s head. He came with books and toys for us to play with. Laughing, smiling, ready for a new day.

“This is not how it should be. This is not how it could be. Our God is in control. This is not how it will be. When we finally will see. We’ll see with our own eyes. He was always in control”, the song was playing in my ears. It’s true. This isn’t how it should be. Death, disease, pain, lack of finances to pay for health insurance, fear of losing your job, intense loneliness, fear of going through life all alone and depression. None of this was part of the original package. Sin, destruction and death entered the world. And it’s so easy to be swallowed up by the existential hopelessness that is our lot if we don’t know God. If we don’t know someone who is in control. In control even when it sure doesn’t look like he is.

The little girl is right. Marcus was right. Life is good. Yellow is a wonderful color. A day out with daddy is wonderful. It’s epic. It’s eternal. It’s what will last. Yellow daffodils will last. Death and sorrow will wither and pass away. Wearing a sundress with daddy and laughing at his old jokes won’t.

And life is found in the midst of this tension. The tension between aggressive diseases, unbelievable cruelty, loneliness, shipwrecked marriages and daffodils, teddy bears, sundresses and wonderful, patient dads. Hope and light is breaking through. Jesus is real in the midst of this mess we call life.

Torben

07
May
13

A snapshot of my inner world

Most blogs from people in Christian ministries are teaching tools where they start with a question they ponder, or that they know other people think about, and then they talk about it, include some God-stuff and wrap it up neatly with a bow at the end. I’ve thought about writing like that. I guess I wish I could. I guess I wish that would be true to me. True to what’s going on in my life. Alas, it’s not. Far from it. I’m a teacher, but I teach from my mess. I teach in the midst of my mess. I know no other way.

I thought about posting an update about how I’m doing on Facebook, and I chickened out. Afraid of peoples’ comments. Afraid of being put on a pedestal for being honest. Afraid of hearing empty clichés with zero power to help me or anybody else. So I thought I would share something of how I’m doing out here in my little corner of cyber space where I can write whatever I want, and whoever reads it can take it for what it is.

Life is tough right now. Tremendously tough. If I were to give a snapshot of my inner world, these are some of the thoughts and feelings I run into a lot these days:

Worries. Lots of worries. I come from a family line of worriers. Not warriors, but worriers. My grandad was a worrier. My dad is a worrier. It’s something that’s in my blood. It’s a temptation that’s always present. It’s easy to worry about the future, and right now, where we have zero certainty and endless unanswered questions about our immediate future, it’s particularly easy to worry. “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere“, someone semi-philosophic wrote. It’s obviously true. But it doesn’t change the fact that I worry a lot about the future these days. And there is plenty of real reason to worry. We don’t have a place to stay, when we move back to Marietta, Georgia, USA at the end of July, and will we be able to find something that we can afford? We don’t have anything to drive at this point either. We don’t have a bed to sleep in or a table to eat at. We don’t have the financial support we need for our immediate and long-term future, and so far our renewed support raising efforts have been almost completely fruitless. It’s desperately discouraging and sends me into many dark thoughts and feelings that include anger, resentment, hurt, loneliness, confusion. And some more confusion and some more worries….

Frustrations. Frustrations that Jeannette and I can’t seem to talk through the things we need to talk through. We don’t seem as apt at conversing as we normally are. We misunderstand each other. We jump to conclusions that are not right. We both have lots of hurts to work through before we move to the States again. Old wounds have resurfaced. And we struggle to help each other the way we normally do. The pressure in our home is high. “Won’t we just go to Marietta and fall into another empty, lonely, frustrated hole with no money, limited future prospects and few deep relationships?” is one of the questions lingering under the surface.

Tiredness. Not just tiredness from being a dad of a (wonderful) 15 month old toddler who struggles to sleep through the night, and who was sick for three weeks in a row recently. But also tiredness from trying to finish up my last semester of university. I feel stretched like too little Nutella on too much bread. And it will keep going like this the next couple of months.

Confusion. Confusion about my calling. Isn’t my calling crystal-clear? It seems to be clear to me, but it’s as if it’s still not happening. Still I run into walls. Walls of a lack of support, both humanly speaking and financially. Walls of a lack of opportunities. Walls of being misunderstood and seen as someone I’m not.

Irritation. Irritation that it’s so hard for me to rest as I walk through this corner of the valley of the shadow of death. I oughta know better. I’ve been here so many times before. I know this too shall pass. Somehow. And I know who I am in Christ. And I know the truths about who Jesus really is. I know I’m okay with Jesus no matter what I do, say, think or feel. And yet, I can’t rest very well. I struggle. And I get even more tired and frustrated and angry.

Hope. There are feelings of hope. Indeed there are. Not based on anything in my circumstances right now. But hope that God somehow knows what he is up to. And hope that he hasn’t left us alone. I feel alone, but I know I’m not.

I had to end on a slightly brighter note. Because that’s the truth. The other stuff feels a lot more real, and my thoughts agree with my feelings. There are times where I wish I only felt a few feelings, and only thought a little, and typically landed on simple statements of truth. Again, I’m not created like that. I feel feelings deeper than most. Hurt deeper than most. Experience glorious joys deeper than most. I guess the whole “than most” is irrelevant to write. It’s not a competition. No-one wins. And we can’t trade with each other anyway.

‘Till next time.

Torben

15
Feb
13

Downsides of intercultural families

It’s a cold and quiet Friday morning in Copenhagen. I had tears in my eyes as I was walking through the streets trying to keep the insisting winter-cold out. I feel sad. Sad because of consequences of a choice that I made many years ago that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. How is that for an oxymoron?

This Sunday I have to tell my parents that our family are leaving Denmark again in July to move back to the States. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what we want to do. We sense that’s what God’s inviting us to do. I’m called to pour my life out in full-time ministry in the Body of Christ, and right now God has somewhere in America as the place where he wants me to do that. I’m excited about the prospect of getting back into devoting all my time to counsel, teach, train, lead, and through all of it point to life, liberty and hope in Jesus Christ. I’ve missed doing that dearly these last 8 months where I’ve been studying Communication and English at Roskilde University. It’s not my thing to study and look at theories and do academic projects. I’m a practical guy. Does it make a real difference in everyday life? If it doesn’t, I’m not very interested.

So I’m excited to move back to the States and continue in ministry in whatever capacity that’s gonna be. I’m excited for my dear wife and son to have other stay-at-home moms and kids to hang out with, unlike here in Copenhagen where those are extremely hard to come by.

Lots more to look forward to, but what makes my heart heavy today is the loss of leaving Denmark. The emotional loss for our family of not being able to spend a lot of quality time with our Danish family. It was tough for my family when I left Denmark to pursue God and his will for my life outside of Denmark’s borders 10 years ago. It got tougher when I had a lovely wife with me on my journeys that they would love to spend more time with as well. And since we got Marcus, the reality of missing us and us missing them has increased. And will increase with every child God will be kind enough to give us as a family. It sucks. It’s not fair. It’s not right that my parents, Marcus’ farmor and farfar, and the rest of my family, in particular my younger sister, Merete, who has been Marcus’ regular and excited babysitter during our stay here in Denmark, won’t get to see us very often. It’s not how it should be. It hurts us. It hurts them. And Marcus will be missing out on many fun and important experiences because he won’t get to be around his Danish family very much these coming years.

August 20, 2005 I said “I DO” with all my heart when Pastor Shawn Wallace asked me if I wanted to take Jeannette Lynn Thomas to be my lawfully wedded wife. Of course I wanted to do that! What a great choice I made. But I and we also made some choices on behalf of our respective families. Georgia and Ohio in the United States of America, and Herning, Stubbekøbing, and Copenhagen in Denmark are never gonna be very close to each other geographically. “The world has gotten so small”, the airlines tell us, but it still takes 8-10 hours to fly across the big ocean, and it still costs a fortune. That’s the raw reality. One set or both sets of families will miss out on as much contact with our family as they would prefer. And we will miss out of being with them. It will be different on the new earth someday. And I so look forward to that. But as far as 2013 goes, the reality is that we’re leaving Denmark this summer, and it hurts. I don’t know how to tell this piece of news to my parents. There are no clever words to say. It just sucks. They love us, and they love and adore our sweet little boy. And they won’t get to see him grow up. They won’t be nearby for his first day of school. They won’t go to grandparent day at his school. They won’t…..And tears come into my eyes again.

I love being married to my American wife. I love the craziness of being part of an international and intercultural family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a ton of fun, and a huge challenge. And I love it all. And yet, there are real downsides to the choice we made in 2005. We made the choice for our respective families as well. We had to. They have had to live with that. And now, my Danish family will have to work through these realities that I will present to them this weekend. It is not easy. But all I and we can do is share the reality of what’s going to happen. Share that it’s tough for us too. And then entrust my family to Jesus, and ask him to help them in the grief and surrender process that they have to go through to be able to let go of their hopes and desires and submit to what Jesus is calling our family to do. Not an easy thing to do. Real surrender is never easy. But it does make a difference. It does make letting go possible. If you love somebody, set them free, Sting sings. And he is right. It’s the only way to live.

This day is a day of contemplation and reflection for me (plus I have to write a newsletter that’s wayyyyy overdue). And this morning these were my reflections.

Blessings, Torben

21
Oct
12

About gender, abortions, and love that’s growing cold

It’s a quiet Sunday morning in Copenhagen, Denmark. Yesterday, we had a beautiful family day at the wonderful local zoo. What a treat to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather with many of God’s fun, majestic, and creative creations. This morning my thoughts are a lot more dark after I read an article in a Danish newspaper talking about how several Danish couples these days decide to go to our neighbor country Sweden to have an abortion after the 12 week-abortion-limit we have in Denmark if they don’t like the sex of the baby they’re expecting! After 14 weeks Danish couples can get see the sex of their baby through a sonogram, and doctors in both Denmark and Sweden confirm that especially well-educated Danish couples travel to Sweden to have an abortion up until the 18 week limit for provoked abortions they have in Sweden.

Thomas Tegenfeldt, executive at the Social Services in Sweden puts it this way: “Until the 18th week we (Sweden) have free abortions, and you have to execute the abortion NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON might be“.

Here is a picture of a 18 week old fetus. These days you can discard and kill this precious little baby, if you prefer a pink to a blue baby room:

This story about, as Danish media calls it, abortion tourism (taste that word. a-b-o-r-t-i-o-n  t-o-u-r-i-s-m……. :-()comes as a tragicomic end to a week where a story was published in Danish media about a Danish kindergarten where they avoid talking about ‘boy’ and ‘girl’, and do their best to present a gender neutral reality for the little ones. This idea is also inspired by Sweden, where several Swedish kindergartens have replaced the Swedish terms for ‘he’ (han) and she (hon) in songs and everyday conversation with the gender neutral ‘hen’. So in Scandinavia growing parts of the population support gender neutrality, but also kill babies because they don’t have the right sex…..! It would be laughable, if only it wasn’t so unbelievably tragic.

Jesus said it this way when he spoke about the last days before he will return: “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:11-12). The love of most will grow cold. The chill-factor in Scandinavia is high indeed these days.

I wrote about self-hatred and self-acceptance yesterday. I wonder how well-educated, rich Danes live with themselves, if they travel to Sweden to get rid off their baby because of the unwanted sex. How do you forgive yourself, if you’ve done that? Again, the only hope for anybody is found in Jesus. He forgives anyone who comes to him and asks for help.

“Jesus, I sit this morning with a heavy and angry heart. I’m sure you share these sentiments when you think about what’s going on in these last days before you return. I pray for my country, Denmark, and our dear neighbors, Sweden. I pray for a revival among your people. I pray for your children to find out more and more about who they are in you. I pray that we, your children, may be able to speak words of comfort, hope, clarity and truth to the world around that’s falling apart on the unholy altars of selfishness and ungodliness. Come soon, Lord Jesus, when will you come and say NEVER AGAIN to all the injustices going on?”

Two songs spring to mind as I mourn the loss of the children that lost their chance to live here on earth because of an unwanted DNA-combination:

Delirious?’ Our God Reigns:

watch?v=asAyiB0PpvU

and Enter the Worship Circle’s Never Again

You feel the grieving of the broken, And You hold them in Your hands
And You listen to their prayers, their prayers

You hear the crying of the orphan, And You hold them in Your hands
And You listen to their prayers, their prayers

Wake up, God, move yourself, wicked men crush Your children
We pray…we wait, how long until you say “Never Again”

You see the bruises on the victims, And You hold them in Your hands
And You listen to their prayers, their prayers

You are King forever and ever, Your Kingdom come on down
Justice rolls like waters, like waters, where wickedness will drown

Blessings, Torben

20
Oct
12

Sexologist with deep understanding of marriage problems!

All truth is God’s truth. So it’s not a major surprise that some of God’s created beings who (probably) don’t know him personally can muster up a grain of truth once in a while. And yet, it did catch me by surprise when I read what famed (in Denmark) sexologist Joan Ørting said under the headline “Why everyone gets divorced these days” (the article is in Danish). Of course you could start by objecting that not everybody gets divorced, even though obviously the number of divorces is staggering. But anyway, the answer from the sexologist was to my surprise both clear and true.
Ørting claims that the reason so many people get divorced these days is that people don’t know how to love themselves! She explains that we haven’t learned how to love ourselves, and then in marriage, we’re just somehow supposed to know how to do that. She adds that if we don’t love ourselves, we’re greedy and needy for attention from everybody around us, and especially from our spouses.
Wow…that’s deep for a secular sexologist! Her answer to this problem is shallow and irrelevant, as she claims that all you have to do to fix this problem of not loving yourself is just standing in front of the mirror and tell yourself: “I love you” until you believe it. Yeah, if only it was that easy to fix :-)

Anyway, encouraging to see such a truth-analysis of one of the major reasons for the break-down of marriages and families. Jesus told his followers “love your neighbor as yourself“. It’s something that most believers and even most people who never attend church have heard numerous times. To the point where we don’t hear what Jesus is really saying. It’s a huge challenge. To love myself doesn’t come easy to most people. I would dare to say that real love and self-acceptance with the good, the bad, and the ugly I see in myself is extremely rare to come across. Sure, lots of people live with a puffed up self-image where they pretend that they are God’s greatest gift to mankind, and we can end up equating that with a healthy self-concept and a healthy love for themselves. But living a lie of pretending doesn’t answer the deeper cries of the heart of learning how to love ourselves.

These days most churches focus A LOT on loving other people. There is a huge focus in most modern, evangelical churches to reach people. (Unfortunately, the focus isn’t so much on actually telling people about who Jesus is and what he has done and wants to do in peoples’ lives, but that’s a soap box issue for another entry). Nonetheless, there is a massive emphasis on loving other people. Washing their bikes, cleaning gardens, helping in prisons, building buildings, staffing orphanages. All great things, but (and the truth always comes after the ‘but’), if all the people involved in all of these good things, don’t do them from a place of loving and accepting themselves, we’re actually not doing what Jesus wanted us to do!

Jesus agrees with sexologist Joan Ørting in so far as if we don’t love ourselves, we end up as attention-grabbing, needy people who need other people to tell us that we’re okay in a never-ending quest to feel good (enough) about ourselves. That’s unfortunately also often the reason why believers sign up for service at their local church or on the missions field. I’ve met many people, and I was one of them at a point in my life, who need to be in missions to feel needed and wanted. It makes you feel loved. But…it’s a very empty feeling, and you end up desperately running from project to project or relationship to relationship trying to get your love tank filled. But it won’t ever be filled, as long as you don’t love and accept yourself.

Henri Nouwen put it this way: “Self-rejection is the single greatest enemy of spiritual life, because it contradicts the voice that calls us the Beloved“. I agree whole-heartedly with Nouwen. I’ve counseled countless individuals and couples, and time and time again we’ve zeroed in on Jesus’ simple words: love your neighbor AS YOURSELF!

If I don’t embrace and accept Jesus’ unconditional acceptance and love for me, there is no way to live in a proper place of self-love and self-acceptance. That’s the key. Without finding the answer to the inner neediness in Jesus, there is no answer. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, and unfortunately most pastors and most books talk very little about it. It’s as if it’s commonly understood that we love ourselves already. When in fact the truth is very different.

Blessings, Torben




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