Ann Lovell

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Scheduled for extinction: One missionary writer

For years I have prayed to be a person of influence — one who as a missionary, a writer and especially a missionary writer, could point people to Jesus. But with my recent job loss, I realize I may have been holding too tightly to those identities: missionary, writer and missionary writer.

The rich young ruler also faced a question of identity -- see Mark 10:17-27. “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor,” Jesus instructed him. The young man went away sad, Mark reports, because he was a man of great wealth.  

What if the rich young ruler’s story is more a lesson about holding too tightly to an identity than holding too tightly to possessions? 

All the “relational commands” Jesus mentioned to him — do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery — the man had kept “since his youth.” He treated people as the law required. But to sell all his possessions? That would have meant a loss of position, influence and identity. 

Although I've taken administrative leave, cleaned out my desk and am no longer working in the office, my last official day of IMB employment is Feb. 26. In 17 days when I "graduate from IMB," I will lose positional influence and identities I've held for 17 years. 

Until those identities were scheduled for extinction, I didn't realize how tightly I'd been holding on to them. 

Oh, sure. I've offered them up numerous times throughout the years in moments of challenge, frustration or loneliness. "If this isn't what you want me to do, please show me! I don't have to be a writer!" I remember saying to God after one particularly brutal editing review. Still, I stayed. 

For the rich young ruler, losing his identity as a person of wealth and influence was just too big a cost. He went away sad. 

How will I respond? Will I walk away sad? Or will I take the risk to follow Jesus anyway -- devoid of a title respected in Christian evangelical circles -- into a future He has planned for my good and His glory? Phrased that way, it's a total no-brainer. My identity isn't rooted in a title, a task or an organization! My identity is in Christ alone. 

"In Christ alone, my hope is found." 

I am excited, hopeful and looking forward to this next season of learning to trust in Him alone. Whatever it is, it's going to be good.

How is God teaching you to trust Him? How have you dealt with issues of identity? I'd love to hear your stories, too. 

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Three emotions I'm feeling after losing my job ...

In September I wrote about a little thing called the VRI within IMB. In an effort to reduce costs, our leadership offered a voluntary retirement incentive to those 50 years of age or older with five years’ experience.

I was qualified. After praying through it and talking with my husband, I declined the incentive.

Two weeks ago, leadership announced a decision to close the Richmond communications center of which I am a part. Thirty of us – writers, editors, photographers, videographers and graphic designers – will be terminated when the center closes in late April. It was quite a shock. Like being plunged into an icy cold river with no life vest, the announcement took my breath away.

For several days, I said things to myself like:

“If only I’d stayed in Asia …”
“If only I’d taken the VRI …”
“If I hadn’t transferred to home office staff …”

Certainly in each of those “if only” scenarios, the effect of last week’s decision would have been significantly different for me personally. However, as my emotions stabilize and God begins to give me perspective, I recognize that God has directed each of the steps we’ve taken the past few years — to move from Thailand to Richmond, to transfer to staff, to decline the VRI.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, HCSB).

God led me to this place, and He will lead me to the next phase of service, however that looks. 

I’m going to be better than OK! 

As I move beyond the initial shock, anger and sadness, several more positive emotions are rising to the surface:

1. Gratitude: 

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to serve with IMB for 17 years — 13 years as a missionary in media roles in the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, and four years as a missionary and then staff on the global communications team in Richmond.

The opportunity to do work I love with people I love for a cause I love is indeed a rarity. For 17 years, I was privileged to live and work a dream to be a writer and a missionary — one God planted in my heart when I was 7 years old. How many people can say that?  

2. Confidence: 

As I enter the job market, I realize that confidence is a key to success. Confidence will help me put my best self forward in every situation. Confidence will give me “the edge” I need. But while self-confidence is an important characteristic to cultivate, God-confidence is even more important.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7, ESV).

I have every confidence in the future – not because of my skills, experience or abilities (which are many and varied! ) – but because God is directing my steps.

While I make plans to pursue this or that or the other thing, I am aware that God may bring opportunities into my line of vision that I might never have considered. To resist those opportunities just because they are not in “my plan” is foolish. I know without a doubt God will lead me to the place He wants me, and I’m excited to watch His plan unfold.

3. Peace: 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote (Philippians 4:7). I’m learning that the peace of God is a direct byproduct of confidence in God. When I am able to say like Job, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15, HCSB), then I feel the peace of God wash over me – not in the icy cold river kind of way but in the cleansing warm shower kind of way.

God is good, and He has a good plan. And He is teaching me moment by moment to “travel light and wear comfortable shoes” — a tag I’ve used since moving overseas 17 years ago — always ready and able to go where He leads.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

What we are in the dark ...

"We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation." wrote Oswald Chambers. "What God looks at is what we are in the dark ..."

The adjectives I'd use to describe myself "in the dark" are not positive ones:

Scared. Insecure. Emotional. Weak.

I don't like myself in the dark. 

But John said of Christ-followers, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

Walking with Christ is about walking in the light. 

In the light, I am:

Confident. Smart. Grounded. Influential. Mature. Respected.

I like walking in the light.

But here's the beauty of the gospel: God found me in the dark. 

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Paul wrote in Romans 5:8.

The beauty of the gospel in present tense is this:

God sees me in the dark.
God knows me in the dark.
God transforms me into His image in the dark.

So that I can be in the light all that He has created me to be. 

Then, my life isn't just reputation. It's real, authentic gospel living.

Aren't you glad God finds us in the dark?

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