Being Trailblazers

Being Trailblazers

Passions Becoming Roads – Examples of Participation in the Parallel Christian Economy and Society

by Nathan & Kim Lawson

Building a parallel economy honestly sounds daunting and grandiose to us. We have a hard time not rationalizing that it’s someone else’s problem and when they have it solved, they can let us know.

Reality Check: it is our problem, and yours. Because our very existence and way of life have been moved out of the “being threatened” category and into the “currently under attack” category. As things stand now, we have a short window here to prepare. Even if this does pan out to be resolved peacefully, we are no longer interested in settling into what used to be the norm. Whether we like it or not, at least half of our own country strives to remove the other half not just from a seat at the table but from existence. Concepts and events such as COVID and “being inclusive” are tools to make this happen. It has been an odd realization to accept that what we consider normal is now considered parallel to normal.

If you are like us, you may be asking yourself, “How do I move in this direction? How can I be proactive in this changing environment, so that I am not caught off-guard and unprepared? Do I seriously have to become a survivalist with a bunker, food pantry, emergency Bug Out Bag with a windup radio at the ready for the impending doom?” You could – no one is saying any of these actions are harmful or a bad idea. But at the same time, we believe there are three practical, day-to-day steps that can slowly adjust the rudder in your life to steer you more towards a parallel existence. And quite possibly, you have accomplished one or two of these steps already! If need be, for more info on these steps, we’re only a short text message away. Give us a follow at GIJoeGuy!

Step 1: Move closer to GOD!

As we mentioned in our previous article, “Live your life as close to God as possible, then live normally. You will be surprised at how abnormal your life will be.” Seeking guidance for a Christ-like life is easily achievable by simply seeking Christ. A daily devotion, prayer, journaling, fasting, and staying in fellowship with other believers are all solid actions that can be taken to accomplish this. Let us break this down into more practical, tangible steps, noting that in no way is this list comprehensive or thoroughly exhausted. Also, we must stress that as Paul said, “not that I (we) have already attained it, but I (we) press forward toward the goal…”

• Daily Devotion

Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

We all must eat physical food every day to stay energized. Just as physical food gives life to our bodies by way of calories, so we need spiritual food for our spiritual bodies. We would not think it normal or right to skip eating for days on end unless we were purposefully fasting (which is a point to follow). Additionally, not all food is healthy for our bodies. Typically, a person needs to eat complex carbohydrates, natural sugars, protein, and healthy fats to have a healthy body. What happens to your average person who sustains their physical bodies with pizza rolls, ramen noodles, honey buns, and the local drive-thru? Their bodies are exhausted, bloated, heavy, and eventually, they could develop heart issues, Type 2 diabetes, and more. The same goes for spiritual food. There is nothing wrong with “snacking” on short, daily e-mailed devotions or spiritual self-help books. But those are to spiritual food as tortilla chips are physical food. They are fun to consume, but when you really need energy, they will not sustain you.

Ephesians 6 tells us plainly that we are in a spiritual battle. We must, therefore, fuel our spiritual body with sustainable spiritual energy. This is found in the Bible. Not in books ABOUT the Bible, not in devotions with stories that pull at your heartstrings and have a Bible verse tacked on the end of them, or in well-intentioned articles such as this one. You need the Bible.

Kim has loved working through inductive Bible studies for the past 10 years using Precept Upon Precept courses by Kay Arthur. These studies guide a participant through books of the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, using scripture itself to interpret scripture, without man-made commentary. These lessons take Kim an average of 30-45 minutes per day and are time well spent. Nathan likes to do what is called Exegesis and Exposition – taking the Bible and dissecting it down to word for word, seeking out the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word. Then clarifying the definitions and the context. With the Bible – CONTEXT IS KING! The inductive Bible study has this aspect to it, but Nathan takes it to the next level by rebuilding the Bible from the ground up for original meanings. This includes things called word studies, mechanical layouts, and even developing his own commentary, which is nothing more than a man’s opinion on the Bible. It is important to note that before beginning any Bible study, prayer is essential for priming your heart and mind and asking the Holy Spirit to do what He does – to teach us.

• Prayer

Yes, prayer is great for starting devotions, but there is a lot more to this concept. Volumes of books have been written over the centuries grasping at the understanding of this discipline. But like most things connected to God, it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Prayer is nothing more than talking to God. When we say there is more to this concept, Prayer can be used throughout the day as an ongoing conversation with God.

In our marriage, we talk almost constantly. Via text, phone calls, Facetimes where Kim is asking Nathan to intervene with an unruly child; there have been numerous occasions where arrives home not to say hello, but to continue the conversation that had just paused when he turned off the car! All this to say, God is even closer. Sometimes we are praying in our head while we are talking to one another. Prayer was never meant to be a segment of your day; rather interwoven through your experiences, like a thread in a tapestry. When you practice this, it WILL become second nature. You will find yourself speaking to the Lord before you open your mouth.

 Journaling

All the world’s a stage” is the opening line from a monologue by a character, Jaques, in William Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It.” As with any play, it starts with a script. By journaling, you have a rare glimpse of God’s hand in your life with 20/20 vision. One major issue all mankind is faced with is the understanding of where God is, what is He doing, and what will be happening in their life. By consistently writing down your experiences, you will then have a record of God’s faithfulness in struggles you faced, worries, and fears you had, along with the joys experienced during a particular moment and emotions you worked through. We are told in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Just as a child instinctively knows the sounds of its parent’s voice, we over time can learn to hear the voice of God.

My learning how He has answered past prayers gives us a direct connection to how He works, how He moves. This can be a vital tool for understanding His voice for future decisions. The methods for journaling have expanded in recent years. The most traditional method would be pen and paper, but we also now have audio, video, and digital methods for capturing a moment in time. Kim continues to enjoy the traditional method while Nathan has used an App on his phone since 2013 called Capture 365 Journal. Your method of journaling is a personal choice and should suit your personality and schedule.

• Fasting

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, fasting as a verb means to 1) abstain from food; 2) to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods. As a spiritual discipline, we see both types of fasting in the Bible. Men who took the Nazarite vow abstained from wine. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days from all food. In both instances, the purpose is to turn to prayer and the Word of God in place of eating a meal. Your focus on the Lord becomes more intentional, as each craving reminds you to turn to the Lord and allow Him to fill you up with His peace, presence, and instruction. Now, not everyone can fast from meals, and the example of the Nazarite vow supports the notion of abstaining from something other than all food, as the Nazarites abstained from wine and from cutting their hair. As an example, we fasted from television for 40 days in 2008. That was the catalyst for us canceling our cable because we loved how much “quieter” our minds were. This became the beginning of two years of no television at all for us. When we did introduce TV back into our lifestyle, it was more intentional and not via cable subscription. Fasting can also have physical benefits. We have both done temporary juice fasts. We did this for physical reasons but were amazed at how much it helped to clear our minds, give our physical bodies energy, and even lose some weight. Remember, taking care of our physical bodies is also an act of worship “whatever we eat or drink let it be for the glory of God.”

• Staying in Fellowship with Other Believers

Scripture is very clear on fellowship. And we have all witnessed that for two years, this has been an area that has received strong attacks from Satan. The term, “for the sake of safety” has decimated the church and the ability of believers to share life. Just as it has been for you the reader, this has been a strong struggle for us as a family. Even before the CCP Virus was introduced to the world, our family was struggling to maintain deep relationships with others due to so much change. We believe it takes 2-3 years to truly become found in a new church, and when we relocated in 2018 to our current area, we began to lay new seeds for future growth. Covid, and our move out of a rental and into our home, removed any benefits for these seeds. During the shutdowns, we discovered a new like-minded church and are reaching our first anniversary with this fellowship of believers. During this past year, we have also begun a new small group as well as once again taking steps into this new neighborhood to meet others. The digital frontier has also greatly altered, as it comes as no surprise to anyone on Gab. The Christian lifestyle was exiled from most platforms. Nathan had for several years pre-covid described the digital frontier as a Wild West, and now it has become even more dangerous. Thankfully, new foundations have been laid. We are grateful for Gab, and once again believe we are in a land that is uncensored and allows us the freedom to express the blessings of Christ with others! For us, 2022 has many mountains that lay in front of it when it comes to fellowship. But we are excited to know we are not climbing these hills alone.

We have benefited from these disciplines for decades and we both are now at a stage in life where we, in an odd way, are daily living with a sense of impending tragedy. Make no mistake – we are not saying we are ready! But we have been through enough to know that the words “whatever the future may hold” are solemnly said in a confident Hope in His Will. While we do not ask for trials, we can be as confident as the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:25.

Step 2: Ignite Your Passions

What are your Passions? They can be a fantastic launchpad for a foundation in the parallel economy. You could be unknowingly sitting on a path for spiritual, emotional, or physical release by something God has been developing in you for such a time as this. Let us illustrate this with a personal example from each of us:

Example #1 – From Kim: How the Lord allowed my passion for teaching English to help pay our bills

I earned a Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL/ESL) in 2002 but never had a chance to use it beyond occasional tutoring until August 2017. Nathan had been laid off from his position in August of that year and for a time we were adrift without focus (there is a tremendous amount of story I am glossing over for another time). One month before he lost his job, I was presented with an opportunity to use my passion for ESL with a company known as VIPKid. This company had American educators working as independent contractors in a virtual classroom teaching English to children in China. This was an amazing opportunity and we both felt it would help give us some additional income. It was Nathan who encouraged me to interview for VIPKid. I had given up the interests I had as a single woman in trade for the calling and responsibilities that come with being a wife and mother. I didn’t think I “needed more” but Nathan thought I would rise to the challenge and love it. He felt it would revive a part of me I’d placed on the back burner for “when the children are raised.”

The hours were on a schedule based on the other side of the world, but I am an early bird. So, this opportunity meant I could teach 2-3 hours before anyone else in the family would wake up. It was a perfect fit and I loved it! Then what we describe in our lives as “The Great Shake-Up” happened and our only source of income became this side-gig. Being a virtual opportunity, meant that as we moved three times over the next year, I was able to carry this position wherever life carried us, and we were able to pay our bills. Not one bill went overdue, even though life had fallen apart. Financial security is important to me, and even though the stress of life’s woes weighed heavily on us, we were stable.

VIPKid no longer operates the way it was. The CCP made a drastic change to their laws that required a huge restructuring of the company which, long story short, made working for them no longer worth it. While I am a morning person, 4 years of waking up and working for a few hours followed up by the normal duties of a wife and homeschooling mom was taxing physically, spiritually, and relationally. The company’s restructuring meant a sharp decline in available classes and a $4 per hour plus incentives pay cut, so I stopped teaching for them in October 2021. However, for a season in life, I did get to live my dream as an ESL teacher in Asia. Today, my cup is full, and I am content to give 100% of my efforts once again to my family—not to mention get more sleep, have regular Bible studies (and not fall asleep during them!), and be able to spend time with my family, friends, and church past 7 pm!

Remember how I said that I had laid aside “Single Kim” passions for “Mrs. Lawson” passions? That included, amongst other things, determination to run the best homeschool that I can, and to help others along the way. Without seeking out the opportunity, the Lord brought about a position within our homeschool circles that allows me to do just that, AND receive some compensation for my time, training, and efforts. Not coincidentally, I accepted this position a month before I got the word that VIPKid had to implement its change. Now I can earn the same amount of money that I did as a VIPKid teacher without sacrificing time with my family or being distracted from the high calling of wife and motherhood. A passion that lay dormant was reignited at the proper time in life when we needed it most.

Example #2 – From Nathan: How an adventure in GI Joe helped us to buy a house

You’ll have to excuse me as I “Geek Out” for a minute to explain this one, but being a man in his 40’s, I was squarely raised in the 1980’s – or as I like to call it, the “Golden Age for Childhood Toys”. This is important because my “Geek Out” actually paved part of the road for homeownership. I was a HUGE fan of He-Man and GI Joe, as my Gab handle shows. As a child, I meticulously cherished these toys so that even now, I have a significant portion of my childhood collections. When we relocated to North Carolina, I for the first time in my life as an adult could display my toys – dream come true! Ever since then, I have truly enjoyed seeing these toys and reliving those whimsical days. But something else happened I had no clue would develop. As ironic as it may sound, in the past three years, I was able to expand my collection and develop a small side-business with my toys. Through social media, I became connected to an entire underground of like-minded individuals who equally “Geeked Out” on what I discovered to be a very active market for vintage toys.

How did it start: After the small wave of sadness from the realization that my toys were now labeled “vintage” and “collectable” Kim and I discussed the possibility of buying some pieces off the market. I would be allowed to keep a small amount for my collection and resell the rest. Doing this a few times allowed me to find some great deals and turn pieces around for a small profit. Then during the next 2 years, what began as a small side gig grew into a family business. We held live auctions and with my background in multimedia, we made a splashy show called “Auction in the Basement” filled with sales, interviews of other collectors, games, and prizes. We expanded from one camera to six (depending on the setup), additional co-hosts, then ultimately brought in Kim and the kids who handled audio, graphics, and cameras.

During this time, for a family of six, we were renting a rather small house and we wanted to find a home that could give us space and allow us the ability to deepen our roots in this location. It still sounds outrageous to me today, but this small side-business with vintage toys was a key component to getting us out of the forever-renter lifestyle and into homeownership. We went under contract the same week that the country shut down for the pandemic and due to the shifting financial market, vintage toys became volatile in their sales. Although I still have my connections in the field, we no longer hold regular sales and are currently seeking God’s guidance on any movement in this area. It’s almost like the last 30 years of my life lead my little family to a place to get into a more secure environment just before the world drastically changed.

Passions that God has planted within each of us can lay the strongest foundations. For you, it might be something stranger than vintage toys, or it could be something as simple as hand-made materials or an education that seems wasted. He has given us each the ability to grow deeper in every field imaginable and beyond. It begins with an openness to seek “out of the box” opportunities that are probably lying dormant in you even as you read these words. I never had the intention of homeownership 3 years ago when I displayed my toys, but by God’s grace, that is exactly what happened. Kim sought a career in teaching English at one time, then after 15 years of limited opportunity, the passion not only became a reality but crucial to our daily necessities and bottom line.

Step 3: Finding MORE Passions!

Since these endeavors, we have been seeking additional opportunities as they lay in wait. We sometimes feel like we are on a scavenger hunt, the clue sheet is the Bible, and our compass is the Holy Spirit. The change in dynamics due to Covid and the political climate have been the catalysts to develop “Lawsons on Purpose,” which we explained in our previous article. In one way you could say the show’s premise is us finding new opportunities, such as sewing, DIY opportunities galore, and even car repair.

When we began filming at the beginning of 2021, we had a small car issue where a sliding door fell off Kim’s van. Nathan discovered that if he had inspected this element earlier, he could have purchased a small piece to replace, and the door would function properly. Instead, we let this issue get so bad, it burned out a small motor that opens the door and damaged the outside of the car when the door fell off! This event pushed Nathan more into car repair, so when a new problem arose, he chose to tackle it head-on resulting in him, with assistance from some friends, replacing an entire cylinder head in the car! For those who know nothing of cars, that’s about 30% of the engine.

The repair took 3 months out of the year to fully complete, but for someone who in January 2021 had never changed the oil, Nathan now has a list of car repair items he has been introduced to and a much better understanding of the mechanics of an engine. Also, when this issue arose, we truly believed the car was lost and we were looking at a repair bill that would be higher than the car’s worth. This was not an option for us as we could not afford a car bill. And as insane as it sounded at the time, replacing 30% of the engine was the option we had the most control over. And isn’t this a crucial component to being part of a parallel economy? Instead of purchasing a car, in our heads roughly a $13K loan, we invested $600 in parts and equipment. To this day, the car still runs! Now, this might change tomorrow, but tomorrow is God’s problem. (8) And Nathan has a much stronger desire to work with cars and his hands. Passions might not be obvious initially, but through life’s struggles, it’s amazing what you can discover about yourself.

What are you passionate about? Is it off the beaten path or is it so ordinary that you don’t think it could possibly be useful? Could a life-long desire be your path to thrive inside a parallel economy? You can start today and the 2022 year by taking steps to move closer to God, developing passions, and blazing trails towards self-sufficiency. Start today with prayer, seeking God’s voice. Journal the aspects of your life that cloud your focus and begin to watch how God moves the mundane pieces in your life. Plan a day of fasting to help develop this foundation. And once you begin to lay the initial bricks, invite others near you to participate in this new growth. We would love to hear how God has moved through your life as well!

Drop us a comment or message and let us know!

For more information on Nathan and Kim Lawson, follow Lawsons on Purpose on GabTV.

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