Posts Tagged ‘surrender


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


ode to simplicity

Hello blog! It’s been a while. I’m in one of those seasons where God is doing something interesting in me. I know he’s taking me to new places in my experience of myself, him and life. I want to know him. And yet I resist getting to know him. I want to pursue him. And yet I end up running away from him. I want to surrender. And yet I fight him with every fiber in my being.

God and I wrestle a lot. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s frustrating at times. I know that I want to surrender to him, his love and his plans for me, and yet I find myself resisting. Or actually not me, the real me, but my flesh is resisting what he is wanting to do. “It’s gonna hurt too much”, my flesh protests. “Look at these last years…it’s only going to get worse”. It’s a lie. I know that now. I know that God wants something good for me. He isn’t done with me. He wants to chip away more of the pride and self-sufficiency that stop me from hearing him and knowing him in deeper and more satisfying ways. I asked him to do that, so he is only answering my prayers. But there are parts of what he is wanting to do with me personally that I have resisted. My ambitions, my desires, my dreams, my claims to fame, my entitlements….that has to die. I know that. I embrace that theoretically, but I end up fighting it in reality. It has to die, and if God then wants to resurrect some of it in his ways, in his timings and Spirit-led ways instead of Torben’s flesh-led ways, that’s his call. To surrender means to give myself completely into the hands of God and truly say: “your will be done no matter what“. It’s where the rubber meets the road. God is patient with me. And he will not stop calling me into more fullness of life with him. He does that with all his children, and unfortunately most of us ignore him or fight him, and don’t get to experience the rest, peace, joy, and freedom that are the wonderful fruits of a life in surrender.

I want that fruit. More than anything else. That’s what he has showed me. So when I am choosing these days to surrender  more fully to him, I don’t do it because I have to or because he has forced me to. I do it because that is what I truly want! The real me, the spirit within me where the Spirit of Christ lives, wants God and life in him more than anything else. These past few months the civil war between my fleshly desires and the desires of my spirit has been raging. It’s been ugly. It’s taken a lot of energy to keep going in this place of constant turmoil. But I have a choice to make. And I have made my choice. I choose the Spirit within me. I choose Christ. I choose life. God’s way. So we’ll see how that will be walked out these coming hours, days, months and years. My emotions are dull right now. Not swinging wildly, just dull and quiet. I don’t make the decision to surrender more fully from an emotional high or from an emotional low for that matter. I know the feelings will swing. They’ll come and go. It’s okay. Surrender is a decision I make with my will. And then the emotions will fall in line with the truths I’ve chosen to embrace. It takes a while for the emotions to do that. But that’s okay too

During these past couple of months I have been envying the simple people I know. I often long for their simplicity. The ease they display in their walk with God. “God is good, he is always faithful, and I will always trust him” they ooze. Not from a place of naïvety. This is just who they are and what they believe. I love simplicity, though I rarely experience it. So I will end this – I’m sure – somewhat confusing blog entry with Secret Garden’s beautiful piece of music Ode To Simplicity:

Blessings, Torben


Surrender or mediocrity

These last weeks have been a lot about surrender for me. God is asking me to surrender even more to him. God is asking me to trust him even more and to experience the abundant life that comes when we surrender to his love. “All to Jesus I surrender” we sing on Sundays, and then on Mondays we pick up our lives and try to make it happen on our own, and try to get our needs for love, acceptance, worth, significance and security met on our own.

What does it mean to surrender all to God? It means to stop trying to act as if I know better than God. When Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he ended up thinking that he was God. He knows best. And all of us who are related to Adam (and that includes all the earth’s 6.6 billion inhabitants!) think like that. I know best! God doesn’t know best. I will decide for myself. I’ll be the king of my world. I’ll make it all happen on my own. And I am alone. That’s the default setting that all humans are born with. Even the most innocent looking baby is born with this deeply ingrained in him. It’s all about me. And nobody is gonna help me.

When you accept Christ into your life, you are born again (John 3:1-17), you become a new creation (2. Corinthians 5:17). Your spirit is made alive and perfect. But we still have our flesh. We still have the residue of our old nature in us. And that, which the Bible calls flesh, will not surrender to God. Flesh within us will still cause us to walk according to it, so we end up in the miserable and life stealing existence that Paul describes so eloquently in Romans 7. When we are not surrendered. When we still feel like playing God and deciding for ourselves what’s “good” and “bad”. When we put God on trial and tell him how he should run the universe in general and my life in particular (like in the wonderful movie Bruce Almighty), we walk according to the flesh, and we experience death in our lives.

Romans 6:23 tells us “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord“. Many use this verse in an evangelism context, but the audience that Romans was written to was a group of believers in Rome. They were Christians already. The verse, therefore, does not address issues of salvation, but it’s about a life principle that is true everywhere at all times for everybody. If we chose to walk according to our flesh. If we choose to live in sin. If I choose to choose what I know to be wrong, what I know the Holy Spirit within me is reminding me is wrong and won’t bring life, it will bring death. Every time. Death is lack of life. Death is bad conscience. Death is mediocrity. If you’re a believer, Satan can’t snatch you of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). But he will do what he can to make sure you don’t experience the abundant life that Jesus has for us (John 10:10), but instead you experience the boring, lifeless, mediocre and empty tread mill existence of so many believers who have not surrendered to God and instead try to get their needs met outside of him.

God has challenged me to surrender all to him. And God is very specific. To me it’s not too hard to lay down my felt right to a cool place to live, to possessions, money, financial security, etc. That may be hard for others to lay down. For me the big challenge for God is to lay down my felt right to be loved by other people, to be needed, to be treated as somebody special. I struggle with this. These past two years have been very lonely, and I’ve whined and complained to God. I’ve resisted what God has been trying to do in this area of my life. Now God is showing me that I’ve found love and acceptance in other people. I’ve felt loved when people sought me out for advice. I have loved being needed by friends and family members. And slowly God has taken that away from me the last couple of years. It has hurt. It still hurts. But I’m beginning to see that God is calling me to lay it down in front of him. I want to be a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12) that he can do with however he pleases. And that means a life of total surrender. That means a life where I allow him to be God and me to be me. This doesn’t mean that God won’t allow me to have friends who love me and whom I can love back. It just means that he doesn’t want to share first place in my life with anybody else. As I surrender to him, and experience him as life, I am free to healthy, godly relationships where I don’t try to get needs met in other people that only he can meet.

I have made the choice to follow God’s will for my life many years ago, but still there are areas where God is asking for a deeper commitment. He is asking me to live a life of humility and sacrifice the way Jesus did here on earth (Philippians 2). Jesus is inviting me into the fellowship of his sufferings that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:10. It’s a fellowship of dying to my own flesh and my own desires, and allowing him to be enough in all areas of my life.

So that’s what I’ve chosen. God is the one calling me and giving me the strength and courage to do this. And he is the one who will make the abundant life with him more of a reality in my life as I surrender to him, and trust that even when he takes things and people away from that have given me comfort, he does it because he sees it’s best for me, and because he knows how to shape and mold me more into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).

So here is the song that I’ve been singing a lot these last few weeks. There are tears and pain in singing it, but there is also joy, peace and life in a surrendered life. And I know that God knows what he is doing, even when I don’t understand or agree with it.

Torben – who realizes that surrendering completely to God is a process, and is glad that God doesn’t challenge me to more than he knows I’m ready to give him!


Always with me

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less” Philip Yancey states in What’s So Amazing About Grace. Nothing. Absolutely nothing that I do, say or think will make God love me any less. 

This aspect of salvation, grace and life with God continues to blow me away. When I feel like taking my cross out of my necklace, because I have blown it again and I don’t feel worthy to be associated with Jesus Christ, God is with me, loves me and accepts me. When I feel like I don’t need God, because I get respect and admiration and I trust my own abilities, God is with me, loves me and accepts me. Always. All the time. He never leaves me. I can’t understand why he doesn’t leave me when I fail him over and over again. I can’t understand how he can love me when my growth is so small and my desire to spend time with him so weak. But he does.

I have been struck by Psalm 139 where David ponders on God’s omnipresence. I have made my own version of this majestic Psalm.

“Father, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sin and when I honor you. You know all my thoughts, the good, the bad and the ugly. You know me, love me and accept me when I:

  • love or lust
  • give or steal
  • dream or despair
  • praise or curse
  • build up or tear down
  • am positive or cynical
  • give life or kill
  • trust or run away
  • laugh or cry
  • spend time with you or choose to ignore you
  • kind or brutal
  • compassionate or indifferent
  • joyful or sad   

…and “when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:18 )

I’ve done it again. I’ve given in to the very sin that breaks your heart. Now I return, fix my eyes on You, that’s not who I am. That’s not who I am in You. You say I’m Your child, chosen one and friend. You love me with a love I’ll never comprehend.  You call me Your masterpiece, Your poetry, Your holy place, in You complete. So Lord, I give to You, all I am in Holy Surrender.” /Aaron Keyes, “Holy Surrender”

God bless you all!



Wonderful songs

Top 10 songs – many of the songs are not new, but these are some of the songs that meant something to me in 2007 and continue to bless and challenge me. Click on the links to see some music videos. 


East To West – Casting Crowns

Cry Out To Jesus – Third Day

Renew Me – Avalon

The Real Me – Natalie Grant

Everything – Tim Hughes

When God Ran – Phillips, Craig and Dean

How Great Is Our God – Chris Tomlin

A Place Called Grace – Phillips, Craig and Dean

Holy Surrender – Aaron Keyes

Where Is The Love – Black Eyed Peas


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