Archive for the 'thoughts' Category

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

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

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

31
Jul
12

Coming home?

In the history of this blog these past six months have been the longest hiatus without any new blog entries. In some way it surprises me. A Ukrainian friend of mine wrote me shortly after our son Marcus was born and expressed that he was looking forward to hearing me blog about my experiences as a father. For some reason that hasn’t happened. Some friends said to me that it was – of course – just because I am not sleeping quite enough these days that I don’t have many philosophical thoughts about life. It would be easy to agree with them, but I know that’s not the truth. The truth is that it’s been bugging me that I can’t seem to organize my thoughts and figure out what’s going on inside of me. I can’t seem to focus on what I want to be all about. I can’t seem to move in courage and faith into the things of God that I know he’s inviting me into. I’m afraid. Afraid of more loneliness.

A few thoughts on fatherhood now that I might have your attention. I love being a dad to beautiful little Marcus. He is a great joy to behold, even as I write where he’s laying on the floor playing in his Tennessee Volunteers pj’s that our dear friend, Tim Huddleston brought to Marcus from the Smoky Mountains state. He’s great. He’s fun. He’s lots of smiles and craziness. And yet, I’ve been almost perpetually disappointed in myself this past half year. Disappointed in my reactions when things are not easy. Disappointed in my lack of patience. Disappointed that I don’t seem to do what I need to be doing most of the time. Disappointed that my flesh is as ugly as it is when it comes to anybody invading my space and making sure that my schedule and my ideas can’t happen. Having a baby surely, at least in my case, has forced me to stare the beast of my flesh even deeper into its ugly eyes. It ain’t pretty. My wife, Jeannette, has been great at encouraging me and reminding me that I’m doing a great job as a dad. I don’t know if I believe her most of the time, but I also know that it’s been good for me with all the reminders of how Jesus deals with me when I scream, whine and won’t surrender to what’s really best for me. Marcus is a baby in my arms. And often I’m a baby in Jesus’ arms. I want to surrender, but I end up working against what I really want, just like Marcus does when he is sleepy and can’t seem to surrender to the sweet release of sleep. It’s humbling for sure. I’m glad Marcus is as forgiving and forgetting as he is. I’m glad that he always receives me with a smile and a giggle. I wish I received Jesus’ invitations with the same cheerfulness and trust. Maybe it’s trust that Jesus wants to teach me. Despite having known Jesus intimately for many years, that issue remains a problem. It’s hard to trust him. It’s hard to let go.

Coming home to Denmark has been a challenge. Is this really home? I haven’t lived in this country the past nine years, and I feel so different than I did as a young twenty-something year old sans wife and baby back in the day. Some people have said that it must be nice to be home, but I never know how to reply to that question. Sure, there is something familiar about being here in the country of my roots and with my mother tongue being spoken everywhere. But I don’t know if I feel more at home here than I do everywhere else in this world I’ve been. There are huge blessings connected to the life I’ve been living these past nine years. I love my global perspective. I love the familiarity I feel with people and cultures from around the globe. I love that I have friends where I know their hearts from Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Ukraine, the Philippines, and countless other countries. There is such a richness to that. But there is also the other side of that same coin: I belong everywhere, and in a sense, I belong nowhere. It’s been lonely since coming home. I’m struggling to find my feet under me. What am I to be all about this next year in Denmark. How do I connect with people I run into? I’ve had fun trying to talk more to people that I meet out and about. Danes normally don’t initiate conversations with people we don’t know. In fact we’ll go to great lengths to avoid conversations with strangers. But my theory has been that if someone initiates a chat, Danes are like everybody else and enjoy a little conversation. So far my theory has proven valid.

It’s been four years since I wrote this blog entry about a line that Jesus challenged me with from the film version of C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. (I’m back again after a short break. Marcus just needed some kisses and hugs from his Daddy that helped assure him that’s he’s okay. Don’t we all need those times? Often?!). I’m still there. Four years later. I’m still afraid to jump fully. Some people say to me that I’ve jumped much further into the crazy waters of faith than they ever have. I know the truth is that I’m still, in many ways, standing at the edge, afraid of losing my footing completely if I fall deeper into the ravine that is Jesus’ love and Jesus’ invitation to truly let go and learn to live with him as the only center in my life. I hear his invitation, I know he won’t force me, and yet I continue to hesitate. I wonder how I would react if someone continued to hesitate to accept an invitation I extended four years ago? I’m glad Jesus doesn’t have my temper and my impatience. I’m glad he understands. I’m glad that he, despite what my flesh and unfortunately much of Christian tradition say, is never disappointed in me.

He knows I’m afraid to lose more than I feel I have. I have friends all over the world, but few in my home country. I have lots of people who care about me and us, but very few that I could call on a gray Wednesday. I have lots of people who look up to me when it comes to faith and living radically, but few I can share all my fears and struggles with. I encounter many individuals who find my story of living on support and pursuing the Kingdom of God full strength on a global scale this past decade fascinating, but few people who know how to relate to me and pursue a friendship once they hear the same story. While living in the United States I often wished that I could answer: “my name is Tom Smith, I’m from Wisconsin, and I work as a teacher” when asked to introduce myself. Somehow “my name is Torben Riis Jensen, I’m from Denmark, and I work as a missionary and Christian counselor” seemed to make it harder for people to relate to me…These days, I’m running into that here in Copenhagen too. Copenhagen, as the capital city of Denmark, is a modern, cosmopolitan city, but still it’s difficult for people I meet at church to know what to do with this scruffy-bearded young(ish) man with his tales of living in England, Ukraine, and the United States, and his stories of encountering people in Greenland, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Moldova. Connection points are few. Sometimes I just wish I were a school teacher…(and no, I’m NOT attacking school teachers in any way, shape or form, it just happens to be a job that most people can relate to without too much explanation 🙂)

Why do I even write this? What do I want? Your pity? No. Not at all. I guess I don’t really want anything. It’s just how life is. Just how my life is. Nothing too unusual about it. Nothing that lots of people can’t relate to. But it is my reality nonetheless. Sometimes it’s nice to be seen as unique. It used to mean a heck of a lot to me. Now I don’t need it (as much) anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily change.

So Jesus invites me, again, into deeper life with him. Away from people. Away from friends and family. Into places I fear. Into places in the depths of my heart that will challenge, bless, and change me. I fear that change. I fear the increase in loneliness that (sometimes? often? always?)follows when you dig really deep into the beauty of Jesus. Most people will not understand. It’s how it is.

So where is home for me? Jeannette and I followed this past season of American Idol religiously. And in God’s great sense of humor he’s using the winner’s, Phillip Philipps, first single to encourage me. I thought the lyrics to Home would bless Jeannette as she’s struggling to settle into unfamiliar surroundings here in my home country. But the truth is this ain’t my home anymore than it is hers, and I can’t help her the way I wished I could. But somehow Jesus is speaking to me through this song. Maybe he’s the one who is gonna make this place our home. At least for a season. I hear the demons that fill me with fear. Fear for today. Fear for tomorrow. And I have no answer to their lies. Maybe Jesus will take care of us on this unfamiliar road as well?

Blessings, Torben

31
Jan
12

in the middle

It’s 2:22 in the morning, and our 12 day old son Marcus has decided that Daddy doesn’t need much sleep this night. Maybe he’s right. I have a hard time sleeping anyway. Lots of thoughts about my place in this world seem to be going in circles. My wife just warned me to not go in through the door called ‘despair’ that we both know is in this room of thoughts and questions. She knows and I know what’s behind that door. I have often walked through that door when I’ve wrestled with questions of belonging as I do this early morning. It’s not a good place to go to. There is nothing to gain behind that door. Or behind the door next to it titled ‘hopelessness’ for that matter.

So instead I choose to listen to my heart and the questions I find there. Earlier tonight I found myself doing a round of Facebook-stalking of friends, acquaintances, and random people who don’t have a very high security level on their profiles. Don’t judge me. You do it too. And I left that tour feeling rather lonely. Without a group to belong to. I used to wear that as a badge of honor that I didn’t belong to a group. That was part of being young and independent minded. I loved playing the devil’s advocate no matter what people were talking about. And I loved being seen as ‘unique’. Now, I feel more unique and different than ever, but it’s not something I’m longing for. Big parts of me wish I belonged with other people in some kind of group. I wish I could associate myself with any sort of group and say that I firmly agree with everything they stand for. I can’t, however. I’ve written about it previously that when it comes to theology and the things of life with Jesus, I’m most definitely not able to find a group or even a person to fully associate myself with. Sometimes people ask me for my theological point of view on this or that, and I rarely know what to say. It’s not that I’m more wishy-washy than I was 15 years ago. It’s not that I’ve lost my cutting edge since I turned 35 a few days ago and officially entered the fairly un-sexy group called ‘people in their mid-thirties’. I feel passion like never before inside of me. I see Jesus setting me more and more on fire for truth. But I can’t seem to find a group to associate myself with. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle somewhere.Too liberal for the conservatives. Too conservative for the liberals. Not hip enough for the trendy. Way trendy for the hicks.

Having lived in three different countries, England, Ukraine and the United States, these past 8 years, and having spent time in more than 40 other countries doesn’t make the pursuit of finding a place to belong easier. I’ve experienced that strongly these last few weeks since our beautiful son (I promise to write more about him later on!) was born. I love that I truly, without it being an empty cliché, know people all over the world. I love that people from more than 20 nations were celebrating Marcus’ birth with my wife and I on Facebook and through emails. But the reality of having friends all over the world. The reality of being married to a person from a different country than my own. The reality of constant traveling and experiences that most people will never be able to understand. All of those realities are part of me feeling stuck in my own little world. I love that I’m a world citizen. I love that my perspective is global. I love all of that, but it also makes life lonely at times. Even though they wish they could be here with us, we didn’t have friends from Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden, Germany come to visit us and celebrate our son’s birth. It just didn’t happen. So feelings of loneliness creep in. Feelings of belonging anywhere and not belonging anywhere. It’s part of God’s gifts to me that I’ve never been a stranger in any of the many countries I’ve had the privilege of visiting. I love that. I love how comfortable I feel all over the world. But that’s also part of what makes me harder to relate to.

I’m in the middle. I don’t know how to associate myself with a group of any kind. I admire people who can do it. I honestly do. The types who ‘like’ lots of pages on Facebook and feel connected to other people who do the same in cyber space or in real life. I don’t ‘like’ many groups. I just don’t. I don’t even know what to do with myself in grace circles these days. I see things differently from other people. And again I see that I used to be proud of that fact. Now, I don’t have to be different anymore. I wouldn’t mind agreeing with lots of people about lots of things. I just don’t. I find myself in the middle. In the middle of nowhere.

I’m glad that I’ve found Christ in the middle of nowhere. He is fairly unique too. And he’s been crazy enough to create me the way I’m created and invite me on these different journeys that have helped shape who I am and what I believe. He likes me. Just the way I am. He will always like me, even if I never find a group to belong to. Even if I never start sentences with “we believe…..or we think…” as opposed to “I believe…I think….”.

Some people will read this and see me as just another post-modern fool trying to be different. And 10 years ago I would have agreed (secretly, of course!) with that verdict. But not today. I find less and less pleasure and pride in being different. I just am different, and that’s okay. It remains a dream for me to someday be in some kind of community where true transparency and honesty rules and where I can have a group of people where I can truly share heart aches, pains, questions, concerns, joy and laughter. Until then I’m okay in the middle. With Christ.

Blessings, Torben – who loves being a Daddy, but wonders what my son will think when he reads this in 20 years from now…

03
Jan
12

Out of self-rejection – new year’s thoughts

A new year is upon us, and I thought it was time to sit and jot down some thoughts about what’s been going on, what is going on, and what I hope will happen in 2012.

To start with the latter first, maybe I should explain the title of this blog entry a bit. My dream for 2012 is to write a book! I want to write a book about how Jesus sets us free from self-rejection to live as people who experience true freedom. I have most of the book in my head. I have lots of thoughts of chapters about brokenness, suffering, self-embrace, etc. I hope I’ll be able to sit down and get it down on paper. I’m terribly nervous about this project. Who on earth would want to read a book that I write? Does that even matter? Is there really a need for a book about these realities? Won’t it just drown with all the other books being published every day? Do I have what it takes to write it? Lots of questions, and I’m okay just letting the questions be there. That’s part of self-acceptance too. To be okay with doubt and fear. Maybe, just maybe, these realities aren’t the opposite of faith. Maybe I can embrace myself in my doubt and fear. Because I know that Jesus does. Anyway, I’m excited about this dream. I have several books I want to write. And I somehow feel released to pursue the first one this year.

My beautiful wife Jeannette is 38 weeks pregnant so at any point our baby will join us and revolutionize our world. I have loved seeing the baby grow inside of Jeannette. I have loved experiencing the gentle journey out of fear and dread into hope and excitement that Jesus has had both Jeannette and I on. I have loved feeling accepted and received at all stages of this journey. I have loved watching Jeannette fall in love with the baby in a way that I can’t even begin to imagine or express. The link of love between my wife and our baby is already unbelievable. I am excited to hold our little miracle in my arms. I’m scared and nervous when I think about so many aspects of parenting. In particular the financial side of things scare me. We live on financial support from friends and family members who support the ministry Jesus is doing through us. How will we survive? I don’t know. But I cling faithfully to the promise Jesus has given me that “he will pay the postage”. We are a letter from Jesus about life, freedom and self-acceptance, and that letter won’t stop being read just because we have a baby. The letter might get a different audience. The letter might change some of its content. But the sender of the letter, Jesus, is the same. And he has promised that he will continue to take care of us. I rest in that as a father to be. I can’t wait to be a father. I am excited about the relationship with our baby. We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. And we will be happy either way. We are just excited to be able to invite a new, beautiful person into our family. We are excited to love, live and learn together all three of us. I know Jesus has much he will teach me through this baby. I know I will become a different person and more authentically the Torben I was created to be through this child. I can’t wait.

2011 started out in darkness. We were mourning the loss of our first baby who was lost to us in a long, drawn out nightmare of a miscarriage in the last months of 2010. Tears flowed freely. Darkness surrounded us. And we journeyed with Jesus through that valley of the shadow of death. I didn’t like it. I hated it. Pain was real. Hopelessness was tempting. And yet, I always knew that Jesus knew what he was doing. I didn’t agree with his ways in the midst of the pain and struggles. I still don’t think it was the best way. And that’s okay too. Jesus is, thankfully, very untroubled by my lack of agreement with his plans.

What will happen this year? I have little to no clue. And that’s okay. I am excited to continue my personal journey with Jesus. I’m a different person January 2012 than I was January 2011. There is more fruit in my life. There is more freedom. There is more real honesty. Not the middle-finger-to-the-world-attitude to everybody that passes as honesty today. Not cynicism that I thought for years was real honesty. But real honesty and transparency taught to me by Christ himself. He has overwhelmed me with his acceptance in the midst of my mess. Even in the midst of my sin. He has laughed with me when I’ve screwed up. He has smiled when I’ve lied. This sounds wrong to religious ears. This will be covered more in my book 🙂 But this is, also, how Jesus is! Sin is off the table between Jesus and me. He will never bring sins up against me, and I don’t have to either. I am truly free. I have loved seeing how mercy continues to overtake my life. How the mercy and compassion of Christ is flowing more and more freely through me. Some interpret it as weakness. I know it’s strength. I have loved experiencing more in 2011 than ever before that being a person of mercy and compassion doesn’t take anything away from the passion, strength, directness, and plain old cutting-through-the-crap that Jesus has also given me as parts of my character. Jesus was 100% authentically himself both when he touched the sick, played with the children AND when he attacked people for being sons of Satan and when he cleared out the temple with a home-made whip. There is no separation. It’s all authentic. And I’ve been allowed to see more of that in my own life. And I have fun with it! I have more fun being myself!

Thus I embark on a new leg of the journey. It’s called 2012. I don’t know what will happen. Will there be more smiles than tears this year? I hope so. But I don’t know. And I choose to rest in that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing in and through me.

Happy New Year!

Love, Torben

06
Oct
11

more talk about sex

For some reason I seem to be stumbling on some very interesting articles about (premarital) sex these days. Here is another one from Relevant Magazine where the author makes some very good points about the danger of premarital sex. An article that starts out with the wonderful statement: “Sex is awesome!”, and then it goes on to explain some of (many) reasons why sex outside of marriage is not so….awesome.

My favorite portion of the article is right here:

“Sex covers relationship flaws. No matter what you call it, that season before marriage is a really important time in your life. It is the coming together of two people in an effort to know and be known. It is a trial period, in which you are pursuing compatibility and connection in hopes of a lifelong commitment. That is some serious stuff. As exciting and exhilarating as this season can be, it’s also loaded with pressure. But you see, pressure can be a very good thing.

The best analogy I’ve heard regarding this topic is from a book by P. Roger Hillerstrom. He parallels a couple’s relationship before marriage to a steam pipe. The role of this pipe is to transport pressure. Many times, these pipes are prone to cracks and imperfections. When pressure builds, it allows these cracks and imperfections to be revealed and ultimately repaired. But when the pressure is released prematurely … the pressure doesn’t build, and the cracks are never found, nor repaired. As Hillerstrom says, “Eventually, they will corrode and destroy the pipe.”

The truth is, every relationship must go through a series of healthy pressures to discover what it’s really made of. Family of origin issues, expectations, roles, personality differences … the list goes on and on. Communication is the key to discovering and working through these pressures. As a professional counselor, I can’t stress enough the importance of building a marriage on healthy communication. The problem with sex outside of marriage is that it allows for “pressure” to be released through the avenue of the physical rather than by the foundational structure of communication.  

Problems and flaws are never discovered … until it’s too late and the damage has completely destroyed what could have been an indestructible match.”

Spot on! Read the rest of the article for yourself and see what you think.

It did hit me as I read the comments regarding this article, and the other article about premarital sex that I wrote about earlier that some people have developed some very interesting thoughts about God. Several people commenting on both articles who call themselves believers are saying that A) they don’t feel any guilt or regrets about having had sex outside of marriage, and B) their relationship with God improved after having had sex outside of marriage…! The first one I had heard before, and while I don’t believe it to be true, and it’s definitely not the cause for ANY of the many people I’ve counseled the last three years, it sounds at least a tiny bit more likely than the second statement. It is indeed a very small god that fits what they like. Sure thing, God is going to bless us with an overwhelming sense of peace, joy and love, when we directly go against his will and what the Holy Spirit who lives inside of each believer tells us brings death to us………..Hmmm…no!

Sometimes God must be at least somewhat surprised of what comes out of the mouths and keyboards of his children.

Anyway, time to eat an orange.

Blessings, Torben

30
Aug
11

Why wait?

I just want to recommend an interesting/sad/encouraging article in Relevant Magazine  (page 66-71) about the reality of how few people who identify themselves as Christians in the United States these days actually wait until marriage to have sex. Definitely worth a read and a thought. I can’t count the people I’ve talked to and counseled who have experienced guilt, shame and remorse because of choices they’ve made in regards to sex outside of marriage.

The hope for those who didn’t wait, and those of us who did, is, thank God (!), the same: the forgiveness, mercy and grace that none of us deserve, but that God gives freely! And I thank him that he can restore purity to his children, if they dare to become honest about the lies they’ve believed, and the wounds they have on their souls because of (sexual) choices as opposed to listening to the rational-sounding lies of the enemy of “Everyone’s done it“, or the old classic: “I did that when I was young and stupid, it doesn’t affect me today

Blessings, Torben – and so it happened that the 200th blog entry of abrokencup.wordpress.com happened to be about premarital sex – who would have guessed that 200 entries ago? 🙂




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