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A Breach in the Wall of Peace

The on-again-off-again Antarctica experience has hit another snag. As you know, a few weeks ago, my supervisor called me with the exciting news that she was upgrading me to Standby status. She wanted me to fly to San Francisco on October 5 to be ready to deploy in the event that a team member tested positive for Covid. I was very excited. Even though it was not a guarantee, it was a step closer to McMurdo.

I closed down the house. I packed my bags. I canceled the internet service at my home and put my car insurance on vacation mode. I made arrangements with friends to manage my property while I was gone. Finally, everything was ready to go.

The United States Antarctica Program has a special relationship with the New Zealand government. So although New Zealand is closed due to pandemic restrictions, USAP employees are allowed to transit through the country after a two-week quarantine period. But to fly to New Zealand, and ultimately McMurdo, I need a special invitation visa from the New Zealand government. After being upgraded to Standby, I reached out to my supervisor, expressing concern that I had not heard anything from Travel regarding the visa or the flight to San Francisco. My supervisor flagged the concern up through channels. Something was amiss.

Finally, I received a call from upper management. The news was not good. Six weeks ago, a clerical error was made on my account. When I was downgraded from Primary to Alternate status, a mistake was made. Instead of being downgraded to Alternate status, my account was accidentally removed from the system! I was listed as inactive. Because I was listed in the system as inactive, none of my information was forwarded to New Zealand. No special invitation visa was applied for with my account. Without the visa application, I could not fly to New Zealand. The October 5 trip was canceled.

A breach in the wall of peace

When I got the call, I was driving to the gym. I attempted a workout, but my mind was trying to process what had just happened. The door to Antarctica was slowly closing. So, finally, I gave up and went home.

I settled in on my favorite chair and spent some time sitting on the lap of God. I needed to be held, comforted, the disappointment profound. I saw myself sitting there on the lap of the Father God, held by him. But this time was different. This time, he was rocking me in a rocking chair. Back and forth it went as I sat in silence, being held by him. In the multitude of times I’ve imagined myself on his lap, I have never thought of it in a rocking chair. There’s something comforting about a rocking chair, an even deeper intimacy. It was a profound moment for me.

Until I got the call last week, I’ve marveled at the peace of God protecting me from discouragement or dismay in this long, drawn-out process. I wrote about it in the blog, “The Peace that Guards us.” But, the news that a clerical error had deactivated my account hit me hard. It felt like a kick in the gut. The special forces team, protecting me with the peace of God, was breached. I lost hope. I was discouraged. I muddled through the weekend, not sure how to proceed.

I spent extended time on the lap of God. It took me a couple of days to grieve the loss. Yet, I found hope in a scrap of paper I’ve carried with me for over twenty-four years.

The Receipt

In 1997, I was only beginning to walk by faith. I had come to know the Father God in a personal way after working through the Experiencing God Bible study by Henry Blackaby. In the freshness of that budding relationship, I committed to living by faith. I would carry no debt. I would trust God alone to meet my needs. I would pray, and he would provide. No credit cards to bail me out. God alone.

On April 5, 1997, I was broke. I had no money. I had even looked in the sofa cushions for loose change. Nothing.

Meanwhile, I needed to drive from Clearwater, Florida, down to Englewood to interview at a church for a position. Not only did I not have any money, but I also did not have any gas in my car. I was radically trusting God to provide. I got up that morning, and in child-like faith, said, “Father, today I need some gas to drive to Englewood. I would be so grateful if you would provide the gas I need.” I packed the car and put the key in the ignition, ready to leave with no idea how God would provide the gas for the vehicle. But then I looked up and saw something stuck under the windshield wiper.

A crisp twenty-dollar bill fluttered in the morning breeze.

I was stunned! I could not believe it! This moment was the first awkward baby step of faith for me. God had provided money for gas! To this day, I do not know how the bill got on my windshield. I went to the gas station and pumped the whole twenty bucks into the tank. I was shouting for joy as I drove southward down 275 toward Englewood. I was on a high, singing worship songs as I went along.

That was when I saw the sign over the expressway. My jaw fell open in shock. I took the next exit, drove over to a roadside parking lot, and turned off the car. Three little words had silenced my celebration. “Pay toll ahead.”

“God,” I said, “you knew I was going to have to pay this toll, and yet you let me put the whole twenty bucks into the tank.” Silence. I looked out the window to the ground below to see if perhaps someone had emptied an ashtray, and maybe there might be some coins on the ground. Nothing.

This incident was before cell phone and GPS. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I turned the car north and started driving back the way I came. I would have to find another route.

I got about a mile up the road when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me. “Tim,” he said, “didn’t you get that wallet for Christmas?”

“Yes,” I cautiously replied.

“And when your friend gave you the wallet, didn’t he put a dollar bill in it, sort of as a blessing.”

“Yes, God, but that dollar is long gone.”

I took the wallet out as I continued to drive. I flipped through all the pockets on the inside. In the center pocket of the wallet, there was the dollar bill, carefully folded, hidden from sight.

I could not believe it! I had no idea that dollar was there. At this point, I didn’t know how much the toll was, but I thought, “I’m going for it!” So I turned the car around at the next exit and headed for the toll booth.

The toll was precisely one dollar. I have the receipt for the toll in my wallet today. It is a reminder of the faithfulness of the Father God. When life is difficult, I pull out the receipt and remind myself of his faithfulness to me. If God was so gracious as to provide a single dollar when I needed it, then surely he is aware of the big stuff as well. Therefore, I can trust his provision in any area of life.

And so last Friday, as I sat reeling from the blow to my dream of experiencing Antarctica, I opened my wallet and pulled out the receipt one more time. Tears welled up in my eyes as I considered his faithfulness to me. All these years, he has taken care of me. Again and again, he has proven himself faithful. His kindness astounds me; His faithfulness, a treasure.

For over twenty-four years, he has taken care of me as I have waited on him. I have no debt. None. No mortgage debt, no car payments, no credit card debt. I live in a beautiful home that he provided for me. He gave me a wonderful vehicle to drive. I live a lifestyle far beyond my income, especially considering that, in most years, my ministry salary is well below the poverty line. On average, my salary is about $15,000 a year. You cannot explain my life apart from the kindness of the Father God. It simply makes no sense.

And so I held the receipt in my hands. A print shop clerk laminated the fragile paper many years ago. The blue ink is a bit faded, and the edges are curled from where the wallet folded. But if you look closely, you can still read the details. April 5, 1997. Lane #4. Toll: $1.00. Cash.

I love my Father God so much. Yes, the Antarctica puzzle remains unfinished. But I can turn to him in my disappointment and find he is waiting to hold me. This turning toward him instead of away is the key.

We will face disappointment in our lives. It is human. The Father God designed us in such a way that we deeply feel the loss of an expectation. We do not criticize ourselves for our humanity. But when we experience this loss of expectation, how we respond is critical.

Our natural response is to feel angry at the injustice. We stew over details, replaying the experience in our minds, seeking a resolution that will ease the pain, trying to resolve the mystery of the unknown. I’ve done this. But this is not helpful. Better to focus our minds on the faithfulness of the Father.

When we experience these emotions, how we respond matters. Instead of focusing on what we do not know, we focus on what we do know. So I remind myself of the Father’s faithfulness as I sit on his lap, his arms around me, rocking back and forth. The Father is faithful. I have a scrap of paper in my wallet that proves it.

Where Antarctica stands now

Management has restored my account to Alternate status and has sent my information to New Zealand. However, it may take four to six weeks to get the visa. So the next possible opportunity to join the team would likely be in November.

At this time, the only way I will go to McMurdo this season is if someone quits or gets fired. It is still possible as this has happened in past seasons. My hope is restored, and I expect that I may still go sometime this fall. My supervisor also reminded me that if, for some reason, I do not make the team this season, I am first in line for next year. The dream is not over; it is merely delayed.

I rest in the reminder of the faithfulness of my Father. I am at peace again, the breach restored.

I slide the receipt back into my wallet, where it will stay until I need it again.

Book Update

My editor is currently working her way through the new book. This content edit is the first of several stages of editing. You can join me in praying for her as she helps in this critical way. I am thrilled to be at this point in the project timeline. I expect to have early Advance Reader Copies available sometime in February of next year. I am anticipating launching the book in June.

Upgraded to Standby Status for Antarctica

My getting-a-job-in-Antarctica-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic roller coaster continues to roll!

I am now on standby to join the team! At this time, the USAP is flying me to San Fransisco on October 5. There I’ll meet up with a group of employees transitioning to McMurdo. All of us will get tested for Covid and quarantine for four days. If any team member tests positive or cannot go for another reason, I move from standby to primary status and join the team flying to New Zealand.

My standby status means I am still not guaranteed to go, but this is a positive development.
In the words of my supervisor, “Although not a guarantee, it’s a step closer to getting to McMurdo.”

There is the possibility that I will fly to San Fransisco, nothing happens, and I fly home. Further, even flying on to New Zealand is not a guarantee I will get to McMurdo. There is a two-week quarantine in New Zealand with multiple Covid tests. So nothing is set in stone.

I am content to wait on the Father to see what he has planned.

Waiting Well

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14, ESV

Book Update

I have finished the first draft of the book “Sitting on the Lap of God.” I celebrate this important milestone. Currently, I am going back through the chapters with a light grammar edit, and then I will turn it over to my editor for the first of several editing stages. Over the next few months, we will produce a finished manuscript. I expect to have Advanced Reader Copies ready in March. I plan to launch the book for sale at the beginning of June in 2022, in time for Father Day weekend. So we are still nine months away from launch. In between, I am developing an extensive marketing campaign to raise awareness of the book. In all, I am excited to see the process moving forward.

I am far more excited about this project than I am about the prospect of going to Antarctica. I believe the book will help many to find the love of the Father in their own lives.

Antarctica Update

At this time, there are no new updates to share regarding my job at the McMurdo research base in Antarctica. I am waiting for an assignment. If you missed the last update, the National Science Foundation decided to scale back operations at McMurdo due to the most recent surge in the pandemic. As a result, they cut my position. I keep in touch with my boss regularly. The first of three Mainbody groups began deploying on September 11. Over the next several weeks, two more groups will transition through the quarantine process in New Zealand. With my alternate status, I am available to replace anyone who may not be able to go. So, for now, I have to wait and see what will happen. I may be called up to replace someone this season. If that does not happen, then I am first in line for a position next year.

I think I confused some by writing that I hope to work in Antarctica for the next several years. But the work in Antarctica I am pursuing is seasonal. It is only for the four months of Austral Summer – October through February. So if I get this job, I would be gone from October through February only. So, to clarify, I am hoping to work in Antarctica seasonally from October through February for the next several years.

There are three main United States research bases in Antarctica. I hope to experience each one.

McMurdo is the largest and the main jumping-off point for most of the research on the continent. I am currently under contract to work here in the lodging department. When fully operational during the Austral Summer, the base houses around 900 people with approximately 600 researchers and 300 support staff. The average temperature in the summer is around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. To see an image of the base and to read more information, click here: https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/mcmwebcam.cfm

The South Pole station, nearer the continent’s center, is smaller, with around 125 people during summer. It is the harshest environment of the three, with average high temperatures around -18 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Click here to learn more about the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station: https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/spwebcam.cfm

Finally, the Palmer Station, on the opposite end of the continent from McMurdo, is the smallest of the three bases, with up to 44 people in the summer. Palmer is the warmest of the three bases, with average temperatures in the summer around 36 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the most picturesque, in my opinion, with abundant wildlife. Here is a link to the webcam at the Palmer Station:  https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/palwebcam.cfm

In the Waiting

And so I am in waiting mode again. Again! Oh, there must be a lesson in all this. As I wrote in the last update, I remain guarded by the peace of God through this process. If you missed that update, click here to read it.

I know of no one who enjoys waiting. But when you think about it, waiting is a natural part of our lives. We wait for an end to the pandemic. We wait for a new school season to begin, then we wait for summer vacation to start. We wait for a new friend to return a text. We wait to hear back from a job interview. We wait for a vegetable garden to grow, then we wait for the tomato to ripen. We wait in waiting rooms for appointments to finally begin.

I wait for the book to be complete. And I wait for a position to open in Antarctica.

Waiting is natural. Waiting well is the trick.

The Bible says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

In this passage, the original language for the word “wait” has the connotation of a rope under tension. It is the tension of enduring, like a tie-down strap holding an object in place during a storm. Waiting in this context infers a sense of tension.

I live in Southwest Florida in an area prone to hurricanes. Years ago, my sailboat was out of the water in the work yard of a marina. As Hurricane Irma approached, staff at the marina secured the vessel with strong tie-down straps. They attached one end of the six-inch-wide straps to the vessel and the other end to screw anchors they drilled into the ground. The vessel rode out ninety miles an hour winds without tipping over. The winds put the tie-downs under great stress. In essence, the tie-down straps waited out the storm. As the winds increased, the tension also increased. But, the straps waited well and saved the boat from harm.

Waiting well means navigating this tension. How do we do this? How do we wait well?

When I am in the waiting mode, I make extra time to pull back into my relationship with God. I call this time “Sitting on the Lap of God.” It is the primary way I view my relationship with the Father. So I wait on his lap, held in his embrace, while the storm rages around me. He is responsible for managing the tension accompanying the storm. My responsibility is to sit in stillness on his lap.

Occasionally, I find myself wandering about, momentarily forgetting my relationship with the Father, and I feel the tension building within. I try to fix it. I work to make the situation better. I take responsibility for the tension instead of letting the Father take care of it. When I take responsibility for the wait, I bear the entire load of the pressure. When I let the Father take responsibility, I am at rest.

I have enjoyed an extraordinary peace since learning my job in Antarctica had been cut. The peace of God has guarded me well. Then one day, I checked in on the Facebook group for employees of the United States Antarctica Program. A pang of sadness started to creep in as I read through the posts of employees who were preparing to deploy. I started feeling melancholy. It was the equivalent of checking in on an old girlfriend, only to discover she has moved on and is happy without you! The peace I had enjoyed started fraying. As soon as I realized what was happening, I closed the website and crawled back on the lap of the Father God. I had wandered off the lap of the Father, and tension was settling in where peace had reigned. The solution was to get back on the lap of God.

As we wait, we wait for the Lord. We wait for him to decide the next move. We spend more time with him. We focus our eyes on him. We look up from his knee and gaze at his face. The storm does not faze him. He feels no tension. He is at rest. He strengthens us. We are encouraged. We are secure on his lap. And we wait well.

My friend, are you in a season of waiting? Are you waiting well? Or are you feeling the tension building as you wait out the storm? If so, join me in learning to be still on the lap of God. Wait for him to move.

Be strong. Take courage. Wait for the Lord!

 

 

 

 

The Peace that Guards Us

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV.)

In the previous update, I shared the lessons the Father was teaching me regarding my anxiety. If you missed that article, you can read it here: https://timothymark.com/countdown-to-antarctica/

At the time, little did I know how quickly circumstances in my world would change.

Within days of posting the previous blog, the sailboat sold! It is an immense relief to know it is taken care of before departing for Antarctica. I celebrate this milestone.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news.

This past Tuesday evening, I received an email from my supervisor in Antarctica. The subject line read, “Unfortunate News.” Cautiously, I opened the email. The National Science Foundation (NSF) oversees the research and work at McMurdo, Antarctica. Due to the escalating pandemic, they decided to cut back the scale of work at McMurdo this season. Unfortunately, as a result, my position was eliminated. That’s right. Downsized. Cut. Gone. Crickets chirping. I am back in alternate status. If anything opens up, they will let me know.

I sat there on the couch, trying to process the message, and reread the email on my cell phone. And I smiled. Yes, I actually smiled. And here is where it gets interesting.

You would imagine I would be disappointed, sad, bummed out. But I was not. I sat there smiling, completely content, not a care in the world, not the least bit disappointed. I began to wonder if I was mentally okay. Have I finally lost my mind? Has the stress become so great that I have completely lost it?

I had the most astounding peace. I do not have words to describe it. No worry. No anxiety. Just complete, utter peace, satisfied, full of joy. Not a care in the world.

And that is when the lesson I recently learned came back to my mind. Ah, yes, the Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious. Surrender everything to the Father. And the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind.

There it was! I was experiencing the peace of God that is beyond understanding! It was guarding me, protecting my heart, and defending my mind. I was flabbergasted. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Honestly, I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall. Surely dismay would follow. But peace remained, anchoring me, filling me, washing over me.

I settled in to spend a few moments talking about the situation with the Father. Then, in my mind, I saw myself sitting on his lap, on his left knee. His arm was around me, his hand resting on my leg. I craned my neck and looked down over the side of his leg. There, on the floor below at his feet, was a tiny toy sailboat lying on its side. Nearby, to the right of the sailboat, was a small toy home. Then, just further away, I saw a child-sized puzzle, partially finished, the three or four remaining pieces scattered about the edges. On the face of the puzzle was the continent of Antarctica, nearly complete.

In that beautiful moment, I saw my life from the perspective of the lap of God, and it changed everything. My toys, the things I highly value in my childlike mind, lay scattered at his feet. There on his lap, none of them mattered in the least. His embrace overwhelmed me. His love filled me to the full. I sat there looking at my toys and realized there is simply no comparison to the feeling I get when I am with my Father God. Nothing even comes close. I sat there on his lap, resting in his peace, willing to set aside my toys for the joy of being with my Father, who loves me so profoundly.

I don’t recall ever experiencing peace like this in my life. It was a big moment, one I will long remember. I suspect the path to this overwhelming peace begins with surrender. I believe the moments of surrender I experienced a few weeks ago made possible the peace I enjoy today. For I think it’s unlikely that peace is possible while we cling to our toys, our problems, and our circumstances.

Further, the peace of God is not something we generate through will or effort. It is something that is given to us by God. It is the peace of or from God. Some reading this will think, “Wow, look how Tim is responding.” But that implies that I am somehow willing myself to have peace. That is not true! No, it is the supernatural peace of God at work. It is his peace that is doing the heavy lifting.

The Bible says the peace of God guards us. In the original language, it is a military term. His peace sets up a perimeter around us like a special forces team with guns drawn, defending against anything that would discourage, defeat, or cause anxiety from affecting our hearts and our minds. I merely sit there in the middle, surrendered to the Father’s embrace, surrounded by his peace. His peace guards our hearts, that place of emotion and feeling. And it guards our minds, that place of intellect and thought. Ironically, the Bible says the peace of God is beyond understanding. So while we cannot comprehend it, we experience it to the full in our hearts and minds.

The Bible says when we are aware that the owner of our lives and toys is near, we have no reason to be anxious about anything. We bring all our requests to our loving Father by prayer with thanksgiving. Then, the peace of God, which is beyond comprehension, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) The result of all this is that his peace protects us! Imagine. All our anxieties are vanquished. We rest in his care.

The Lord is at hand. I rest in his embrace.

Antarctica Update

With this change, there is still a possibility I will be in Antarctica this winter. If an existing team member falls ill or leaves the program for some reason, management may ask me to replace them. So I keep my bags packed and ready to go on short notice. I know of other past season team members who were alternates who were called in November to join the team on base. So we will wait to see what God has planned. The good news is that if I do not make it to the Ice this year, I get priority in joining the team next year! So there is still a great deal of hope to see the puzzle completed.

Once again, I will not have access to Facebook or any other social media sites in Antarctica. The only updates I expect to make will be through the email mailing list. If you are reading this on the website or from a forwarded email and are not currently a member, join the community here: https://timothymark.com/email-signup/

 

The Lord is at hand

As a reminder, I will not have access to Facebook or any other social media site when I am in Antarctica. The only updates I expect to make will be through the email mailing list. If you are reading this on the website or from a forwarded email and are not currently a member, you can join the list here: https://timothymark.com/email-signup/

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5b-7, ESV.)

The clock is ticking, and the day of departure for Antarctica is only a few weeks away. Recently, I reviewed my journal of this journey over the past few months, and I noticed a disturbing trend. Again and again, I wrote about the anxiety I was feeling through the process of getting the job and preparing to leave. A sense of anxiety seems to be on repeat play. Throughout this season, there have been many moments when I felt anxious. The dream is so big and challenging to attain. It is a rare handful of people who get the opportunity I have sought. Now, feeling so close to the finish line, I feel stressed instead of at peace.

For several years, I have felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities with the ministry, work outside of the ministry, owning a home, owning a vehicle, and sailboat, all of which need attention and focus. Now, with deploying to Antarctica on the horizon, I feel like I am driving a car 100 miles per hour, trying to bring it to a complete stop before I leave. I am standing on the brake as hard as I can, but it feels like I am locked up and in a slide out of control. The perception has filled me with anxiety over and over again.

I can give many logical reasons why I should not feel anxious. But anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Instead, anxiety glares at me, demanding my attention. When I lay down to sleep, it awakens, prodding me, imposing itself, stealing slumber and rest. Instead of shutting off, my brain turns on, trying to settle anxious thoughts that have rested in the background all day. The only way to break the cycle is to get up and read a book or watch TV until I finally feel able to go to sleep. This cycle happened to me in the process of getting the Primary position at McMurdo. And I find it happening to me again as the days tick down to deploying in September.

I’ve worked hard to check things off my list as I close down my life here for the time being. I’ve purchased all the items required, and my bags are still a few pounds under the allowed weight. But one essential thing remains unresolved – what to do with my sailboat.

In Florida, the winter months are the best months for sailing and living aboard the vessel. Most sailboat owners put their boats into safe storage for the summer hurricane season. It does not make sense to keep the sailboat since I will likely be working in Antarctica for the next few winters (i.e., the best time to live aboard and sail). So, I decided to sell it.

During this time, writing the book has been my primary focus. After that, I focused on preparing for a week of meetings at the end of last month. Now, with just five weeks away from the expected departure, I am finally getting around to listing the boat for sale. Once again, a sense of panic settled in. I began to feel anxious about it. Logically, I know I can just put it in storage and manage it next year. But again, my anxiety does not respond to logic.

Anxiety gnawed at my gut. At the height of my concern, the Father reminded me of a verse I learned as a child. It says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:-7, ESV.)

I looked up the verses on my laptop. I noticed an odd thing. In the English Standard Version, the phrase, “do not be anxious about anything…” begins in the lower case, implying it is in the middle of a thought or sentence. Curious, I looked up the whole passage to consider the context. There it was. The preceding phrase says, “The Lord is at hand;” Read together it says this: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything….”

I looked into the original language for the phrase “The Lord is at hand.” For the word “Lord,” Strong’s Concordance describes it this way: he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master, Lord or the possessor and disposer of a thing.

I was taken aback. The answer to my anxiety appeared in a straightforward phrase. “He to whom a person or thing belongs.” Those words exposed the heart of my fear. The glaring truth is that I was attempting to play God. But God alone is Lord. I belong to him.

Further, everything in my care belongs to him. I am merely the steward. I take care of his things the best I can. Even my body is his. I cannot change myself. I cannot control whether or not I get Covid before I depart for McMurdo. I cannot change my circumstances. I can only surrender, yielding my rights of ownership, yielding control, giving up the right of deciding what is best for me or my possessions. I belong to him. My home belongs to him. My car belongs to him. My sailboat belongs to him. It all belongs to him, and he alone has the power of deciding how to use it or even dispose of it. I say again. He alone has the power of deciding how to use it or even dispose of it.

For days I had tried to discipline myself not to be anxious. But trying harder to overcome my anxiety did not work. Surrender did. Appalled, I confessed to the Father how I have attempted to control my situation with getting the job in Antarctica. Same with taking care of the sailboat before I leave. I have tried to figure it out on my own instead of resting in the knowledge that my Father is the only owner of the vessel. He alone has the power of deciding what is best and how to dispose of it if necessary. If he doesn’t want to sell it, it won’t sell. If he wants to store it, he will store it. It is not my decision to make. So I wait for him to tell me what he wants me to do with his things.

Further, the Bible says, “The Lord is at hand.” He is not some faraway God, unconcerned with our day-to-day lives. He is near. He is with us. The one who owns all things and has the authority to decide what is best is close. He is aware. It is not as if he is somehow preoccupied somewhere far away in the universe. He is here! With us!

According to this passage, my sole responsibility is to bring all my requests to the Father, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. I spent an hour talking with the Father, surrendering anew and afresh, letting go of my desire to control, yielding fully, finally resting in his embrace. My prayer had little to do with going to Antarctica and even less to do with a sailboat. It had everything to do with emptying my heart. The one thing that actually matters to my Father. My heart.

For me, the key to overcoming anxiety is not trying harder. It is surrender. And so I do not ask for relief; I ask for conformity. The Father pulls, stretches, slowly conforms me to the image of Jesus. Jesus, the son who trusted his Father fully even to the point of laying down his life. When we are aware of the presence of the Lord with us, we do not need to be anxious about anything. He is at hand. He is near. He is with us. Because of that, we let go of our anxious thoughts.

At that moment, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. When I surrendered control to my Father, I found a fresh perspective and peace. Options for storing the boat became clear, negating the pressure to make a quick sale before departure. Peace settled in where anxiety had ruled. And most importantly, my Father realigned my heart with his.

Antarctica Update

Note: This blog was originally posted July 12, 2021

Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from my contact with the Lodging Department at McMurdo, Antarctica. I was surprised to get a call on the weekend. She called to offer me a Primary Contract as a janitor. Of course, I said, “Yes!” I am over the moon excited. I was driving when she called. After I hung up, I looked around the car to confirm the windows were rolled up,  and I shouted for joy!

So it is official! I deploy September 11 for orientation in San Francisco and then two weeks of quarantine in Christchurch, New Zealand, before flying to the ice sometime around the beginning of October. I’ll write more later, but I wanted you to know before I begin posting on social media.

Celebrating the Father’s kindness,

What matters most

Note: This blog was originally posted in July of 2021.

This morning in my time with the Father, I spoke with him about an issue that has been hounding me – my alternate status with the team preparing for Antarctica. I envy the folks who have primary status. When I scroll down the page of Facebook post of team members, I am excited for them, and frustrated at the same time. Their plans are set in place. As an alternate, I prepare as if I am going on October 1, with no idea if that will actually happen. I’ve scrutinized the gear needed down to the specific fabric content of the recommended base layers. Amazon delivers packages to my front porch almost on a daily basis. A storage bin in the back of my closet, dedicated to McMurdo, is overflowing at this point. But the one thing I cannot purchase is peace over not yet having a job placement. Over the past few days, I’ve talked with the Father about my longing for a primary position. I’ve asked him to give me a job placement. I’ve told him how unsettled I feel in the process of waiting. I’ve asked for resolution, not because I want a specific job, but because I want certainty.

But this morning, my mindset changed. As I sat meditating and praying, I was reminded of the joy of experiencing the presence of God. The manifest presence of the Father in the midst of the everyday moments of life is a treasure. To know he is near brings me joy. When his love washes over me, the unnecessary things fade away. And the things that are critical come clearly into focus. Distinguishing between the two is crucial to understanding the peace the Father longs for us to experience.

When I was reminded of his presence with me, suddenly the room felt illuminated, lighter, carefree or at least care-less. In that moment, whether or not I even went to Antarctica did not matter. If I got a job assignment, or what placement I got did not matter. Only the presence of the Father mattered. Suddenly praying for these things seemed frivolous. The Bible says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV). The Father thinks thoughts that are far different from mine. To flip the script, my thoughts are lower than the Father’s thoughts. My ways are lower than his ways. I’m a low-thinker. I’m concerned about a job placement. The Father is a high-thinker. The Father is concerned about drawing his kids closer to himself. He longs to dwell with them. This is the thought that consumes him. The key is to learn to think like he thinks, prioritizing thoughts of his presence with us. Focusing on the one thing that matters: dwelling with him. When we do this, we find the other things we thought were so important are not. Suddenly it no longer matters what job I get, or even if I go at all. All that matters is that I dwell with the Father wherever he leads. Today, in this moment, I dwell with him. Tomorrow, whatever may come, I choose to dwell with him. I practice the priority of his presence and nothing else.

This is not to say that my low thoughts do not matter to the Father. It is just that he sees them in the proper context. It is the difference between how a toddler thinks and a father thinks. A toddler thinks about what will make him happy in the moment. If he wants a toy, he will cry if he doesn’t get it. All that matters is his happiness in that specific moment. The father understands, but he also is thinking about the health and safety of the child. The father is thinking higher thoughts. The child is thinking low thoughts. The father loves the child, and loves doing things that will make the child happy. But the father is always aware of the higher issues – the health and wellness of the child. The happiness of the child is far less a concern.

So I let go of my toys, and crawl unto his lap. He lifts me unto his knee, and brushes a hair from my face. I reach up with my tiny hand to feel the stubble on his chin. He laughs. He smiles as he looks into my eyes. I collapse unto his chest, feeling the warmth of his breath on the back of my neck. All is lost in the moment. All concern, stripped away as his chest rises and falls beneath me. I am a child with my Father. In this moment, nothing else matters. His thoughts become my thoughts. And the things I thought were important suddenly seem so far away, so distant, in a muffled haze.

In the stillness of the moment, I realize I have forgotten what I wanted to ask.

Antarctica!

Lord willing, this October through February of 2022, I will work at the McMurdo research base in Antarctica as support staff for the ongoing work of the National Science Foundation. I imagine this is a shock to many of you. My disdain for cold weather is legendary. But my love for adventure is far greater than my dislike of the cold. And, as a bonus, the Extreme Cold-Weather (ECW) gear is provided.

Let me explain how the idea of working in Antarctica came about.

For over twenty years, I have wanted to experience Antarctica. Cruise ships can take you there, but you hardly get any time off the boat on land, and it is costly. I wanted the grand adventure of living there. In 2007, I applied for a position but did not make the cut. Usually, my ministry schedule doesn’t allow me to consider the idea. Enter the pandemic, and the ministry schedule ground to a halt.

Last October, I realized the pandemic opened up an opportunity to work in Antarctica. I researched job opportunities at the three United States bases. On December 31st, 2020, I applied for eight different jobs. I applied for anything I was remotely qualified for, from janitorial, kitchen crew, and administrative positions.

On March 22nd, I received an email stating I met the minimum requirements to work as a janitor at the McMurdo base. I was beyond excited to learn I had the bare-minimum skills necessary for a job as a janitor! I laughed out loud. I was over the moon. I couldn’t sleep. I called friends and family with the news. Next, I had an hour interview with the head of the Lodging Department. Finally, on April 30th, I was offered a contract with the United States Polar Services as a Janitor Alternate. The alternate status meant I was not selected for a primary role but would have to wait for a position to open. It also meant I needed to get a background check, drug testing, and an extensive medical clearance. I had to get Physically Qualified (PQ’d).

First up was a trip to my local lab for bloodwork. Next, I had a complete dental check-up. The physical exam lasted two hours. The staff at the medical clinic said it was the most extensive physical they had ever done. It certainly was the most intrusive medical exam I’ve ever had! There are limited medical resources at the base, so it is critical to know if I have any health issues which would preclude me from going. Finally, I submitted the completed paperwork to the University of Texas Medical Unit Polar Services and nervously waited. On June 3rd, I learned I was officially PQ’d! UTMU cleared me to work in Antarctica! It was the final hurdle.

At this time, I am in limbo for a job assignment. The Program Director said they expect all the alternates to receive a job placement this year. Any open position I am qualified for becomes an option, so I may not work as a janitor in the end. I would happily take the janitor role, but we will see what becomes available. McMurdo is the largest of the three U.S. bases, with around 300 support staff supporting approximately 600 researchers. It is the primary hub for most of the research in the region.

There is the possibility I will not go this year. The Bible says it is better to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Submitting our plans to the will of the Father is an important truth. Budget cuts affecting the National Science Foundation Antarctic research may cause a reduction in support staff.  A primary position may not open up. I wait to see what God has planned. I am content to know he is entirely in control.

Ministry-wise, I have planned the time in Antarctica into the timeline for launching the book I am currently writing. I am excited by the progress I am making on the book. Every weekday morning from 7 – 11, I write. I shut off my cell phone and block off distractions. I usually start with some time sitting on the lap of God, asking him what he would have me to write. Lord willing, I will have the first draft completed by the end of July. When the rough draft is complete, I will begin rewriting, editing, designing the cover, developing the marketing plan, etc. Some of this process will transpire while I am in Antarctica. When I return in late February, I will set in motion the process leading to publication in June 2022. If for some reason, I do not travel to Antarctica, the timeline would remain the same. There is a strong fatherhood message in the book, so I want to launch around Father’s Day next year.

With my ongoing ministry work with house churches and prayer gatherings, I hope to plant a prayer gathering at McMurdo. Isolation so far from home draws many together who seek community in interest-based groups. Outside of work, there are music groups, crafting groups, lectures, and community bulletin boards to gather like-minded folks. There is no internet to speak of, no cell phones to distract, just long conversations with friends. I hope to share the prayer gathering model with other believers who work there. And I hope to connect with the military chaplain there to support their ongoing work of ministry. I can hardly wait to see what God has planned.

Throughout the long, drawn-out process, I saw the Father at work in my personal life in my relationship with him. At times, I felt anxious. I sensed I was pushing too hard to make it happen. The goal seemed so close. I grew weary from the adrenalin roller coaster from getting good news and waiting for long periods for the next step to happen. In the quiet moments, I heard the Father say to me, “Tim, do you trust me or not? Do you trust that I am in control? Are you willing to let me orchestrate whether you go or stay?” Those times with him led to sweet conversations about his love for me. I rest in his embrace. I love him alone. I am content with whatever he chooses for me.

Last month, in the monthly newsletter, I wrote about learning the art of sitting still on the lap of God. Now you know why I was learning that lesson. In his love for us, God longs to see our relationship with him growing in depth. He longs for us to experience the fullness of our relationship with him.

Have you experienced moments of anxiety as I have? At the core of our stress is a lack of trust. We doubt the Father can take care of our situation. We lie awake into the night, trying to figure out what we need to do to see a resolution. Far better to find ourselves safely on the lap of the Father as our concerns melt into a sea swirling at his feet. It is as if a hurricane of needs whirl around him in ever-widening circles. But at the center, in the stillness of the eye of the storm, the Father’s sits quietly, playing with his child. To our wonder, we discover it is the Father who swirls the storm with his finger.

Yes, he is trustworthy. He is worthy of our trust. When we are near him, we are at peace. When we stray from his lap and try to make life work apart from him, we find ourselves in the storm.

The Bible says, “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15, ESV).

What a treasure to rest in his care.

Summer Update

When the year began, none of us expected a pandemic would turn our lives upside down. Yet here we are! I pray you are well. I am well and getting along fine with minimal interruptions to my daily routine.

I am grateful to share an update with you. God is still at work. He is still speaking to us. In this update, I share a recent experience I had in learning to trust God more. I hope you are encouraged when you read it.

Update on the Giving Challenge and the Love One Another Challenge

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2020 Giving Challenge in April despite the pandemic hitting at the same time. The Giving Challenge is a matching grant campaign provided by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with funding provided by the Patterson Foundation. We participate in this unique giving opportunity every eighteen months. This time I did not feel comfortable marketing the matching grant campaign with so many people out of work and struggling financially. Instead of marketing it on social media, I only shared the information with you, our core supporters. I was surprised by the response. With matching grants, the ministry received over $4,000.00 because of your generosity. These resources help tremendously, especially with the external work of the ministry shut down for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your kind and generous giving!

Publicly, instead of promoting the Giving Challenge, we asked our Facebook friends to find someone in need and meet those needs instead of giving to the ministry. We called it “The Love One Another Challenge.” For several weeks, I updated Facebook with thoughts on how loving others matters. Again, the response was outstanding. I don’t know the exact amount of gifts made to others. However, I received many stories of how God was using folks like you in radical ways to meet other people’s needs. One artist sold several pieces and used the income to bless a waitress with a need. Some used their government stimulus check to meet someone else’s needs. Someone gave an extra car they had to a family with a transportation need. It was exciting to watch God moving people to love one another. From my perspective, this giving blessed me as much or more than the Giving Challenge matching grant campaign. As a ministry, our goal is to influence others to love God with abandon and to love others selflessly. It was a blessing to watch others fulfill the mission of our ministry through their kindness and generosity.

As a ministry, we have a small group of friends who support the ministry on a monthly basis. If you’re interested in supporting the ministry with a one-time or monthly gift, click here for our secure giving platform:  https://timothymark.com/financial-support/

In the holding pattern

As uncertainty over the virus continues, I am focusing my efforts on the final edits for a new book and working on new music. In time, I look forward to ministry in Seattle, southern Michigan, Bolivia, and Asia with prayer gatherings and house church planting. Thank you for your part in all that God is doing through your prayer and financial support. You are a blessing!

Learning to trust

As you can imagine, ministry wise, everything is in a holding pattern right now. Here in Florida, my home is in an area with minimal impact from the virus. I am not traveling with the prayer gatherings or house church planting ministry. I have had only one ministry event since the pandemic began. At this time, there is nothing on the schedule for the rest of the year. However, seeing God at work motivates me for the ministry ahead.

In June, a conference center in New Hampshire asked if I would speak for seven sessions in a Family Conference. The conference was in two weeks! Oh my! I said, “Yes,” and immediately started praying. It is pretty much impossible to prepare seven messages in fourteen days. So my goal was to spend as much time in prayer as possible. I wanted to make sure my heart synced up with the Father’s heart. If I could align myself with his heart, he could say what he wanted to say through me. I chose to surrender my voice to the Holy Spirit. I decided to focus on sharing my passion instead of points. I would share my hunger for a relationship with a loving God. And I would wait for the Holy Spirit to tell me what he wanted to say.

I wish I could say I trusted God fully in this, but the reality is I went back and forth with God on whether I would trust him or not. What if I didn’t prepare well enough, and I look like a fool when I speak? What if I only have ten minutes of material but am expected to share for forty-five? One day, in a moment of panic, I heard the still small voice of God speaking to my spirit. “Tim,” he said, “I am only giving you two weeks’ notice so you will not over-prepare. I want you to rely on me instead.”

The Holy Spirit reminded me that I had decided to focus on sharing my passion instead of points. He just kept saying to me, “Tim, will you trust me to speak or not?” For two weeks, it was a reoccurring conversation with him. Would I trust him or not? Some days I felt a surge of confidence. Other days, not so much. I am not the Apostle Tim. I am just Tim trying to follow God the best I can. Notice the issue was not for wisdom to know what to share at the conference. The question was whether I would trust the Holy Spirit to speak through me. Was I willing to step into the pulpit with little preparation and let the Holy Spirit have the floor? As a result, I spent more time in prayer than preparation. And, oh my, what a difference!

I’ve never seen anything like it. Session after session, the Holy Spirit took over the room. In one session, I started the introduction and finished speaking forty-five minutes later. It was then I realized I had never walked back to the podium. The sermon notes I had prepared sat unused in a neat little stack on the podium. Yet, from my perspective, it was the clearest I have seen the Holy Spirit move while I was speaking. It was shocking.

I am still riding the high from the week of ministry. What a privilege! I believe the lesson God taught me in trusting him will stay with me for a long time to come. Just yield. Let go. Let God take over. Imagine what God could do if we yielded fully to him.

Surrender

My story is unique to me, but I suspect the principle behind my experience is universal to all who follow Jesus. We surrender to him. We lay down our abilities, our talents, our desires, and we follow Jesus. Jesus then takes our abilities, our talents, and our dreams, and the Holy Spirit uses them to bring others to the Father’s love.

Friend, is the Holy Spirit speaking to you, asking you to trust him more? What area of your life are you struggling to let go and let God take control? When we surrender to him, we find he does much more than we could ever think or imagine. Trust him today!

 

 

 

The Love One Another Challenge

Quick facts:

April 28-29, noon to noon

Find someone in need and give generously to meet the need.

Challenge your friends to participate using the hashtag #loveoneanother

 

Background

Every 18 months, Timothy Mark Ministries participates in a matching grant Giving Challenge funded by The Patterson Foundation. During this 24-hour event, the Foundation doubles any donation to the ministry up to $100. Many of you have participated in the past, and you know what an exciting event this is. This rare opportunity helps fund our mission to see renewal in the Church in North America and abroad.

However, the timing of the 2020 Giving Challenge comes during an unprecedented shutdown of the world economy. Millions have lost their jobs. Countless are struggling to pay bills. Some are struggling just to provide food for their families. Many feel a sense of uncertainty for the future. Many feel lonely and isolated in this new world of social distancing. I understand. I hurt for the many lives that are affected.

The Crazy Idea!

So I came up with a crazy idea. What if we encouraged people not to give to Timothy Mark Ministries during the event, but to give to meet a personal need instead? What if we could start a movement of generous giving to see needs met across the world? That’s where the Love One Another Challenge was born. As a ministry, our mission is to help others to love God with abandon and to love others selflessly. When you personally give to meet a need in your neighborhood during the 24-hour Giving Challenge instead of giving to us, you multiply our influence. When you give to others during this event, you help us to fulfill our mission.

Find someone in need

Right now, think of someone you could bless during the Challenge. Pray and ask God how he would have you to give. Then, on April 28 and 29, noon to noon, bless them with your gift! I promise, it will feel incredible!

Maybe your finances are tight, and helping someone with a financial gift is impossible. Consider baking a batch of cookies for a neighbor, and write a note of encouragement. Share your extra toilet paper! Ring the doorbell and run! Giving is fun! Plan now how you will participate.

Usually, when we participate in a social media challenge, we support a great organization. This time, we are supporting people with needs. What could be more rewarding!

Share on Social Media – #loveoneanother

You can make a difference by challenging your friends to take the Love One Another Challenge. When you share, add the hashtag #loveoneanother so we can follow where God is moving around the world.

Will you take the Love One Another Challenge? Let’s make this an exciting 24 hours of giving! Love God with abandon. Selflessly love others. Be the one to share the love of the Father during the Love One Another Challenge!

 

If you are also interested in supporting Timothy Mark Ministries during this 24-hour event, click here for information on the 2020 Giving Challenge matching grant campaign.