“Hey, TINA.”

This is a little phrase we picked up in our training with IMB before we moved overseas. It stayed with me. Teams that were trained at First Baptist Tulsa also heard the phrase as a part of their training. I also have a friend named Tina, but when I say it to her, it just means, “Hey.”

When I say it to someone who is training to go on a mission trip or who is transplanting their life entirely to a different culture to live out and share the Gospel (the “live out and share the Gospel” part is what all followers of Jesus are tasked with no matter where they call home), TINA means: This Is Not America.

Everyone who has ever lived in another country has needed this reminder. We all only know what we are familiar with–funny how that works. We figure everything out around us by comparing it to our previous experiences and try to categorize it so that it makes sense. This is a normal part of assimilating, no matter your age or background.

My family just made a massive life change by moving to Surprise, AZ. (I feel like I need to yell “surprise!” and make jazz hands every time I say the name of our city.) Honestly, so many things have gone smoothly. We are grateful. The win column is definitely stacked. But the other column, which would be more appropriately labeled “challenge” than loss, has been, well…surprising. No, the irony is not lost on me.

Tasks have taken longer and been more different than they should’ve…but why?! This Is Still America after all! (Is TISA even a name?) How can it possibly take well over an hour to tell a bank, “I wanna keep my money here”? Why can’t I find the Starbucks? Google Maps says its right here!! Why are the school buildings labeled A-C-B? Does Arizona use a different alphabetical order?

It may be America, but it ain’t Tulsa. And it isn’t home…yet. Making a new home includes adjusting or even creating new categories so we can understand what we are experiencing. Our kids are feeling the pains of this one. So are Stacey and I. The pain is unique because we don’t expect it. Things look familiar…but they’re different. Things sound similar…but they are just different enough. Losing all your markers that let you know everything is okay disrupts you to your core.

I am reminded of 2 realities during this time. One, I can only control how I react to things. Most things are out of my control, and when I go through changes like this, I even wonder about the few things that I think I control. And two, all of this goes back to the Gospel and being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus is in control; He does what I cannot. I continually think that I am in control; I cannot do what I ought. In a nutshell, I am brought back to the continual process of discipleship: increasingly submitting my life to the Lordship of Jesus.

To see just how amazing, present and generous God is, my situation must demand more than what I can handle. Otherwise, my tendency to think that I can handle it and do it on my own muddies the waters. As a friend used to say, “Fireworks displays are like the glory of God: you can’t see it’s full brilliance until it’s pitch black.” More than I can handle=pitch black.

TINA or TISA…God orchestrates things so His glory is seen. He’s in control. I am not. He is trustworthy. I trust and obey.

We’re off to watch the fireworks!
Tina  Tisa   Bryan


“Unlikely” invitation

Do you remember that dreaded moment on the playground when team captains were making their picks? Do you remember the anticipation if your name would be called out? Did you grow anxious that you’d be the last to be picked?

Oh, you were cooler than that? Um, yeah…me, too…

Mark 2.13-17 tells the story of Jesus picking the “unlikelies” as friends to sit around the table for dinner. The “qualified” ones complained about it. Jesus responded by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The kicker is everyone is a sinner—only the ones who know it come to the table though.

Jesus picks the “unlikelies”, that is He picks sinners. If you think you are unlikely to be picked to be a part of the Kingdom, or to be picked to help grow the Kingdom or even unlikely to be invited to the table to be with Jesus, you are in luck. He’ll pick you.

Him picking any of us isn’t based on how deserving we are. It’s because He stubbornly loves us and paid for our seat at the table.

O come, O come Emmanuel… An unlikely birth to bring unlikely people close to Him.

Have an “unlikely” day!