Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Regifting the Kingdom--John

There are times that I cling to a particular understanding that I have of God because I feel He has revealed Himself to me in a particularly new and life-changing way.  In the same way, there are times that I cling to the familiarity and worn out t-shirt understanding of my Creator that has been a part of my faith for as long as I can remember. And then there are those times that my earthbound understanding can make no sense of God...whatsoever. I write that as precursor to what has happened this semester.

If you have engaged with me in any sort of spiritual conversation since our move to TN, then you have likely been able to sense the intrigue I am having with the "dual-citizenship strains that Kingdom dwellers in a fallen and broken world experience" idea. (I should probably apologize to the EH students and all of the Sunday School class teachers we have been visiting in our quest for a Nashville church home.  Somehow I have been able to fit EVERY spiritual topic into my growing "What is the Kingdom of God?" construct. And of course I don't think quietly.)  You see, the Kingdom of God fits neatly into both of the first two aforementioned categories for me.  The church is the familiar t-shirt that has been apart of my life since I was given breath. It is and not out. It carries a sense of comfort and identity...and sadly even pit stains sometimes. That is the church: preferred, loved, familiar. However in a very different way, I equally feel that my understandings of God and His dual-citizen subjects are always new and unearthed for the first time. I feel that He is revealing Himself to me in novel and unique ways unlike ever before. Though familiar, the church is also the Kingdom: new, fragrant, communal, organismal. I see it both ways because my mind has been trained to think that God has already revealed Himself to us fully, but I am just now able to open my limited mind to His majesty...and in time I will once again "stretch" just as before. My mind also has a tendency to put "things" in "boxes" though. So I won't let the jury rest just yet. "I believe, help my unbelief."

With my interest and intrigue ablaze, I set out to share the Kingdom with my students at Ezell-Harding this semester.  We have spent quite some time talking about the cultivating that goes on within our hearts when we finally let God inside (or rather quit damming up the barrier to His overwhelming infiltration).  We have explored broadly and examined closely the beauty of a family of God made up of fallen and diverse individuals. The church was both perfect...and messy.  We agree that the people of God are now ready to risk taking off the masks of perfection for the reward of "knowing and being known fully" in the Kingdom of the unashamed. Confession of struggle and shortcomings no longer have to be seen as scary things because the church is seen as a collection of strugglers and sinners before we could have ever been called saints. These are all just parts of the gift that I wanted to give them.

I have been preparing and giving this gift all semester. I wanted them to know that blessing.  I wanted them to see the captivating beauty of the familiar church and the charming freshness of the Kingdom. I set out to plant seeds of hope that the Kingdom of God is real and alive...

Yesterday that gift was regifted to me, and I fell speechless.

As first period came to a close, I got held up in class by a couple of students.  When we exited the room, I walked straight into the area that we use for chapel and lunch. I had no idea why, but the commons area was full of our high school students before the 2nd period bell rang. We run assembly/break schedules nearly every day of the week so I thought nothing of it.  Our principal, Mrs. Pruitt called us to order and announced that we were gathered for a new policy.  She went on to say that from now on, we would be having a prayer chapel every Tuesday morning in the High School, and that this was inspired by, and in honor of Brittany and me. This was an amazing honor.  I had no idea this was even in the works.

She then asked me to come forward (for what I thought would be to lead the prayer) and to receive something from the student body.  Garrett Ridley, Austin Grimes, and Mathieu Williams then got up and presented me with 2 t-shirts—one for Brittany and one for me. You see, I have been out of the office a lot over the past 3 weeks as we have had numerous medical appointments. While I have been gone, the students (bless them) have been hard at work thinking of a way to bless me and Brittany.  This is the t-shirt they made for us…

Not only did they make us shirts, but they made one for EVERYONE in the High School.  This morning, the halls were flooded with a sea of red that held my family up high. This was taken this morning right before school. Brittany and I are front and center.

Ezell-Harding Christian High School students and faculty

And not only did they make one for everyone in the school, they sold them at a profit and presented us a VERY large amount of money to help us with our increased costs as we walk this journey.  And yes….they handed it to me $20 at a time and counted aloud every Jackson bill that was placed in my hand.  That went on for quite a while…

I could only say "thank you."

“Team Sullivan” 

Words on a blog do very little to communicate the joy and support that we are feeling today. In trying to describe it, I can but allude to the perfect and messy Kingdom of God.  You see, the Kingdom of God looks very different now than it used to look. Or maybe I just have a new set of eyes to see.  I had my sights set on sharing and showing what God’s Kingdom looks like, and along the way encouraging as many as I could to faithfully be a part.  My sights were not God’s, and an understatement would be to say they were set too low. The Kingdom of God includes all of Team Sullivan; they ministered to one of their own, and they made sure not to let darkness overcome us. We have a team of believers behind us--that gives us great power!

When I came on board at Ezell-Harding, I let it be known that my goal was for this school to be a place where God is praised daily and we would live like as heirs to a promise.  With this goal, I had every intention of being the catalyst that would bring it about.  Today I am humbled at the beautiful gift that has been given to us—not the money, not the t-shirt, not the awesome card.  Those are all wonderful gifts that will make this journey more bearable for us, and I cannot thank you enough for them. But I am humbled by the Kingdom of God that I have been able to gaze upon the last two days. I thank God for my dear family and friends at Ezell-Harding.  I thank God for the fight that they are ready take up on our behalf.  I thank God for Team Sullivan.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.”

Tomorrow we have an appointment with a new OB/GYN at Baptist in Nashville.  She is a high-risk OB and comes VERY highly recommended to us by our current OB. Not sure if we will have any new updates after this visit.  Please continue to be praying for the baby to grow extra strong and healthy.  Please keep praying for the tumor to be gone, grow smaller, or get no larger.  Please keep praying for our next Cardiology appointment in 2 weeks.  We are continuing to pray that as we walk this difficult journey, that faith will increase—ours and yours. Praise God for faithfulness in never leaving us.



Team Sullivan: karley.justice.brian.bailey.jordan.wade.emma.lauren.tori.austin.molly.ryan.dayoung.cohen.elissa.kiana.christiana.gee.cranston.gilley.sasha.michelle.caleb.hoback.will.cody.lindy.jay.joyce.wes.chris.kyle.zeke.zion.rebecca.michael.dakota.sarah.parker.chris.jenni.lauren.tanginique.alex.hershel.ashlie.jessicar.jessicas.samantha.jennifer.blake.shannon.hanna.haley.alyssa.sam.august.jake.mathieu.paige.justin.woody.eli.jake.vanessa.morgan.kelly.davida.jeri.emma.madeline.callie.jake.alex.makayla.emily.rodney.megan.megan.callen.austin.hailey.anesha.katelyn.haleigh.justin.grace.nolan.christian.kelly.emily.tanner.logan.emily.elizabeth.taylor.sarah.rachel.garrison.rashawn.griffin.garrett.jamily.kara.pegah.samiyah.stephanie.chelsea.will.shelby.jaka.aleasa.jonathan.preston.hunter.andrew.jenna.ryan.elias.jonathan.hoon.aric.austin.jaron.abigail.brittany.colt.tyler.rebecca.lucas.matthew.steven.catherin


  1. This brought tears... What a blessing and encouragement to see your Team lifting you up in every way possible. I am thrilled that you guys have that support system there along with your family, and we continue to pray for you here in Searcy!

  2. What amazing things God is doing through His Body and His Kingdom on this earth! Lifting you guys up from here in Atlanta-- we love you three, and pray for you continually. Regifting is the best :)
    -Savannah and David

  3. Where can one buy a team Sullivan t-shirt?

  4. They were pre-sold and then ordered in bulk. I am told that we don't have any more.

    You are SO KIND for asking! Great to hear from you!