my story

I grew up in Dothan, Alabama, home of both the National Peanut Festival and Conestoga Steakhouse.  I miss south Alabama.  I studied architecture for a bit at Auburn University (War Eagle!) before transferring to Lipscomb University in Nashville.  Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Bible are from there.  I really wanted an emphasis in missions for the latter, but in the end I walked away with more classes in Old Testament prophecy than any other area.  Woe unto you. 

[Now I’m in school again… at 40.  Working on a MS in Agronomy and Soils from Auburn.  My thesis research is on nitrogen-fixing legumes for use in improved fallows here in Lake Zone, Tanzania.]

I once was a missionary in Wuhan, China, for three years.  And a lot of great things happened while I was there.  The best was that I met my wife — though she wasn’t my wife when I met her — Christie.  I fell in love with, among other things, her joy in knowing Christ.  We’ve been married since 2004, and every day she is a picture of Christ in my life; most days I’m smart enough to see it.  We have three kids: Baylor Adelaide, Harper Mae, and Cohen Rhett.  The beautiful women in our house outnumber the men, but if I’m going to be a minority, I want it to be with them.

Christie and I together have a great sense of adventure and enjoy learning languages and experiencing new cultures.  We also like rock-climbing, playing soccer/football, and reading.  I am an Ironman triathlete and Christie can run a few miles.   Christie enjoys cooking while I enjoy eating — a perfect match.  Baylor enjoys math, Harper likes to swing, and Cohen mostly eats granola bars.

We live in Geita, Tanzania, where we serve the local people.  We intensely want them to know their creator, have a deep relationship with him, and give him all the glory he is due.  We also want them to have more and healthier food to eat, better healthcare, improved marriages, and in general a higher standard of living.  We are committed to assisting the people of Geita in these areas in a sustainable and reproducible way. Please pray for us.


 

I don’t believe salvation — or even justification — takes place at a single point in time, but is a rather lengthy and sometimes painful process.  However the first day of April in 1990 will always stand out in my mind as one of the most important days of my life.  On that day I was united in death with Jesus Christ, and began a new life as a citizen of an otherworldly kingdom.  I then spent a long time stealing God’s glory and desperately trying to sit on his throne in my life –and if I’m honest I have to admit there were several attempted coups in the lives of others as well.

I’ve lived most of my life in the extremes.  Many years were spent in legalistic religion; I believed it was my responsibility to find or create power from within myself to be obedient to God, and that I could somehow earn his love and even my salvation.  I performed in order to receive God’s blessings, rather than living out of those blessings he was already giving.  I thought I had found the solution to all this when I realized that no matter how often or how hard I tried, no matter the conviction with which I made promises, or the guilt that came with breaking them, I was never able to live into the realities of freedom from sin and a right relationship with God.  Truth be told I was onto something.

But like any good extremist or poor theologian, I rode my pendulum too far in the other direction.  I understood living as a loyal citizen in the kingdom of God would require God’s power in the form of the Holy Spirit, rather than any fleshly power I could muster.  But in reaction to years of works-based religion, I resolved it was time to kick back in my new recliner of grace and flip the channels of watching God work in my life.  After all, I’d only made a catastrophic mess of things in the past.  So I didn’t lift many fingers, judging it better to allow the God of transformation to roll up his sleeves, flex his muscles, and change my life.  I read my Bible and prayed, but I refused to close doors to temptation.  I declined to set goals in obedience.  I failed to fully incorporate spiritual disciplines into my life.  In essence I left satan many a foothold and still did not live into the reality of righteousness.

Today my life is better than it has ever been.  And I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.  I’m not stealing God’s glory, and I’m not a god in anyone’s book.  I’m not saving myself, and I’m not performing in order to receive God’s love.  The truth is I could never fail badly enough to make him love me any less than he has all along.  I am disciplined these days in my walk, and I’ve shut a lot of doors.  I realize worship is laying before God an obedient life, which is something I have to do and isn’t magically done for me.  But the power to do be obedient is not my own, rather it is of the Holy Spirit God has placed inside me.  I have not yet realized a life completely dead to sin, but I sinned less today than yesterday.  My bearings are precise, and my direction is good. May God be glorified, and may I be a testament of his patience, mercy, and grace.

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32 responses to “my story

  1. James,

    Thanks for stopping by the blog. It is good to connect with other Kingdom-minded people and I am sure the people Geita, Tanzania are blessed because of God’s presence through you and others present there.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  2. Thank you for commenting at readtheword. It is a feeder blog to my main God Spot blog at http://37stories.wordpress.com. I’d love for you to find your way over.

    I have read several of your posts here and appreciate your love for God. I have a fairly good readership, if you’d like to use 37stories to share your story of life in TZ. My email address is 37stories at gmail dot com. Hoping that is cryptic enough for the spam bots.. :]

    God bless you and your family in your adventures!
    archie

  3. toshibaninja

    Thank you for dropping by my blog James!
    I will keep you folks in my thoughts and prayers; please continue the good work that you are doing in Tanzania!

    – T.T.

  4. goldenpast

    “The best was that I met my wife — though she wasn’t my wife when I met her — Christie. I fell in love with, among other things, her joy in knowing Christ. We’ve been married nearly six years, and every day she is a picture of Christ in my life; most days I’m smart enough to see it. ”

    wow. that is the sweetest thing to read!

    And this post is very well written. Tells me a LOT about you and who you are as a person.
    It’s great!

    PS: you write an amazing blog. I’ll definitely be checking back 🙂

  5. kingskid11799

    James…glad you made contact. I’ve read a few posts and already relate to your humor and convictions. I am adding you to our blogroll…..I look forward to catching up on past entries.
    Laura

  6. Anne Lessing

    Truth be told, I’m an atheist, and while I don’t agree with many of the religious views you have set forth here, I deeply admire your courage, conviction, and blunt honesty. It’s not often I meet people as straightforward as you, on the internet or otherwise. I’ll be sure to read more of your blog–already read your post on Anne Rice (which was awesome).

    And Baylor is one of the most adorable kids I’ve ever seen! 😀

    • thank you, anne, for your kind words. and thanks for reading my posts while looking past my being a christian. being open-minded and looking for the good in others’ thoughts is tremendously underrated.

  7. great blog! I look forward to reading more.
    Peace be with you

    • A boy from Dothan, AL out in the big, big, world? I spent 3rd grade in Dothan. Grew up all my life in PC, Fl. Now live in your other old stomping grounds – Nashville. Blessings to you and your family out there. Send me an old fashion post by mail and I’ll drop your wife the English major my latest novel. She might enjoy a copy. river@riverjordan.us
      And thank you for taking time to blog your thoughts.

      River

      • 3rd grade in dothan, eh? just that one year? that was a good year for me (my 3rd grade year, not yours). i was the 2nd fastest miler in my whole grade. i’ve also spent a whole lot of time in panama city — one of my favorite places in the world.

        and since you’re now in nashville, would you go have a bite to eat at satco? on my behalf? or you could choose mcdougal’s if you so prefer. thanks.

        • My dad was in ARmy so we were in Germanyand moved in with my Aunt in Dothan soon as we got back to US. I was raised in PC and the backwoods thereabouts. Satco i don’t know. But will check it out. McDougals yes, yes.

          • definitely check out satco — san antionio taco company. it’s on 21st avenue, near vanderbilt.

            and thanks for coming by and reading. i assume your blog will tell me about your most recent book?

    • thanks for coming by, andy. glad you’ve enjoyed my little home on the internetwebs. oh, and peace is with me… every day.

  8. Greetings to a fellow traveler. Enjoyed the testimony.

  9. James … I spent the morning reading through your blog. I read about your work, your family and your commitment to God. I’m honored to be your co-laborer in the Lord. Blessings in your ministry there. I look forward to stopping by more often and getting to know you better.

  10. hey brett. this is the first time i have really been able to sit down and read through this page with focus and purpose: so glad i did.

    i am encouraged and truly challenged by what i read here. thanks for the honesty in your story.

    at any rate, blessings on you and your two ladies, your community(communitas) in geita, and your families around the world.

    looking forward to reading more of your posts and seeing the ways in which GOD continues to make all things new in, through, and around you.

    grace and peace.

  11. Amy

    Hi Brett. I think I have found a new favorite blog. I came across yours while “googling” Discovery Bible Study in preparation for a study at our home. We are too from Alabama and are AU grads. War Eagle! I will be praying for the adventure you and your family are on. Blessings,
    Amy

    • amy, i don’t know how i missed this comment — and it’s from so long ago. i kind of doubt you’ll be back to check it, but i thought i’d say thanks for coming by all the same.

      i checked out your photography, and it’s incredible. how is the discovery bible study going in your home?

      and war eagle! we play for the big prize in just a few days…

  12. I studied architecture too (at Clemson)…only I kept going with it. Struggling in this bad economy to keep going with it though. Praying that the Lord will guide me in this situation!

    • well you’re an orange and blue tiger, too. i miss architecture, but really enjoy what i’m doing here all the same. and i’m confident our God will lead you. blessings, mary beth.

  13. Sounds like you’ve landed on your feet and in a great place, Brett. I’m really pleased to hear that things are going so well for you and your family, and I have no doubt that God is using you in amazing ways in Tanzania.

    • thanks, mike. i am in a very good place. God has blessed me greatly. he’s also using me these days — albeit much more slowly than i’d like. getting everything up and running here has taken so much longer than i’d ever dreamed. thanks for writing; it means a lot to me.

  14. Hi. I was flipping through blogs, and I found your blog. I just want you to know that I enjoyed reading your lifestory. God bless you brother, and may the Lord use you, and your family abundantly in His will. I am moving in the direction of missionary work. As of right now, I am going on my second mission trip to Mexico next month, and one day hope to find myself in southeast asia. warriorsheart27.blogspot.com

    • thanks, christopher. i’m glad you stopped by — and i’m even happier that you prayed a blessing over my family and our work here. may God also bless you in mexico next month, and in the future — so that you may bless others. we may very well one day meet in southeast asia (my dream home).

  15. mallaschmeditations

    Thanks for sharing your story. Very refreshing which is what I needed today as I struggle to get moving. Beginning our 8th year of ministry in Honduras and busyness is robbing me and “I declined to set goals in obedience. I failed to fully incorporate spiritual disciplines into my life.” punched a bit. So thanks brother.
    Blessings.

    • meditations, it’s nice to have had you over to the blog. and i’m happy to hear that God used my failures to urge you on a bit today. i wish i learned from them better, myself.

  16. Ted

    I feel bad that it took me this long to read “your story,” but I guess I knew a lot of it already… Good stuff.

  17. Helen

    Just read your story and I found your blog after seeing your comments on the Blog of Veith. Just want to say how much I enjoyed your comments. Are you a particular denomination? I only ask as I discovered Dr. Veith’s blog since researching the Lutheran church. Thank you for your work and witness!

  18. Excellent, Brett. I’ve often regretted our mutual time at RFC didn’t last longer. Looking back, I see that we were both working through a lot then. As an older brother, I wish I could have been “more” for you in those days. I’m afraid you suffered more than prospered as my first intern. Anyway…I sure rejoice in how God is using you and Christie in Africa. Your words reflect maturity and growth. Did my soul good reading this. Love you, Mike

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