A New Journey

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Photo Credit: thotprovokr via Compfight cc

Like the sighting of Halley’s Comet, this update has been a long time in coming. Nearly four months ago I told you about three words that would forever change my life, and the life of my family. Since that time much has happened. And while I’ve thought often to share aloud, I never could seem to form the words.

Suffice it to say over these past few months, life has continued forward; sometimes quick and easy and other times not so much. Had you asked me at the time of resigning my pastoral ministry what I thought I’d be doing next, I in no way would have come up with a story anywhere close to what’s actually happened.

I resigned February 5. My final Sunday at the church was April 7. May 6 I started a new job at our local coffee shop. At the time I knew this new opportunity wouldn’t be enough to pay the bills, yet it seemed right. From the moment I stepped around to the other side of the counter as a new employee, I knew this opportunity was God inspired. Functionally speaking I now had a job again. Beyond that however, I knew God was and is allowing me an opportunity where I can be in the thick of community. Then on June 10 I became the newest team member of the Brethren Church National Office staff, accepting a part-time position as Leadership Development Coordinator.

Without sounding too dramatic, this was the “thing” that I had resigned for; although at the time we weren’t even aware such an opportunity existed. I can only scratch the surface of imagining what our daily lives must look like to a God who is omniscient. All that we were unable to see in the moment of our current life situation, He’d already seen. He was leading us, and we were doing our level best to follow.

I remember when I accepted the position with the Brethren Office, thinking to myself, “this isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of a new journey.” It would have been easy for me to have considered all that we’d gone through, in a few short months, to get to this point, and to have considered ourselves finally having arrived. But we knew, my wife and I, that this was where the real work starts. This is where the story turns a page. And very much like the moment I resigned, or accepted the job at the coffee shop, I don’t have but the smallest glimpse of what will come next. However, I continue to remain resolute in the truth that I don’t have to know, because I have put my full stock in the God who’s already seen it all. He knows what’s to come, and that’s good enough for me.

So as we continue pressing forward into the future God is scripting for us, I leave you with an anthem of sorts…

Normal?

normalthis thing of life is not such an easy thing to live when living is comprised of doing that which runs contrary to that which is normal. yet i question who determines normal? if normal is the goal, i failed somewhere along the way. but if it’s not the goal what is? and if it’s not the goal why do so many strive to accomplish it? considering goals, it seems to be that goals are the sort of thing one works long and hard to achieve and as such it comes at a great cost. a cost that some would deem too steep to pay. those are the ones who pull up short and worse yet, never begin at all. i don’t fancy myself that sort of a person, although this thing of achieving the goal is no doubt a thing of great difficulty; at least these days. i find that my inner self is at war fighting hard to define what normal ought to be. what it ought to look like, feel like, live like. am i called to live a normal life? no matter how much i might wish i were, i know i’m not. so why bother striving for that which i know isn’t the goal?

no. i very much would rather define the goal to be that which is greater than myself and my ability to achieve on my own accord. the goal ought to be that which when looked upon is summarized as anything but normal. it’s the sort of thing that takes more of you than you have. and yet that’s what i want to be found doing. it becomes the sort of thing that wrecks a day, but redeems a life.

i think very easily i could ball my fist and cast darts of anger at God for calling me to that which isn’t normal. and he’d be okay with that. he’d remind me that he’s big enough to take it; that he’s taken it from so many before me and he’s none the worse for the wear. i think he’d remind me that i’m called because he both knew the outcome and the joy that could be had in the journey despite the pain and heartache and doubt and questions and depression and fear and hopelessness and anger and the sense of lostness. he’d remind me that this call is greater than i am and that in my pocket of greatest weakness i’m actually at my point of greatest need. and when i’ve exhausted all other options i’d turn to him and he’d be there to fold strong hands around mine and strong arms around me and he’s breath a firm whisper in my ear that soaks deep into my heart reminding me that my Dad is Abba and he loves and cares of me his child. that he loves me to the point of calling me to that which isn’t normal because he knows that he didn’t create me to ever be normal.

as i daily contemplate the work of God in my life and as i strive to find myself faithful to the call he’s placed in my heart and the journey he’s set before me and my family, i’ve come to take great solace in the words of this song, claiming them as a psalm over this present reality of life.

Three Words

the_end“I am done.”

Three words that cut through the air like a crack of lighting ripping through a Mid-western summer sky. The weight those words hold is nothing short of immense, yet in the same moment, they seem as light as air.

It has been a little over a month since I first uttered those three words, which forever changed the course of my history. I have started many times to try and put words to the reality of which I’m now living, and time after time I’ve come up empty with exactly what to say. You see, it was with great peace and confidence that I was being led; dare I say called to quit my job. A job that provided a great deal of comfort and security for me and my family.

I have been, for the past thirteen years, a youth pastor, loyal to a single church, called not to a job, but to a life of service to teenagers. That is until the call no longer came in one winter day. That morning I woke up as usual, but in an instant, the length of time it took me to silence my alarm, I knew I would be quitting my job. It wasn’t quite as sudden as it may sound. The truth is God had been applying great amounts of molding pressure to my heart for quite some time. And the more I sought his will, his plan, his purpose… the more I realized this day would eventually come and I’d be released from my present calling, only to be ready to receive the new call for my life.

The quirky tidbit in the storyline is that while God in fact did remove one call on my life, he hasn’t yet replaced it with a new one. That’s not to say that I don’t fully believe he will; he simply hasn’t yet.

As word of my resignation spread, the inevitable questions about what’s next began to surface. Each time, I honestly had to say that I wasn’t sure; God hadn’t yet revealed his next steps. Interestingly, through the whole of this process, my wife and I have been both on the same page (that’s important), and oddly at peace (also important). The reality of the situation we’re in is that what we are doing doesn’t honestly make sense; outside of God’s economy. No one willfully quits their job, the job that is the primary financial means for their family, without having a back up plan locked in place. And by back up plan, we all know it’s supposed to be something bigger and better. Why else quit if it’s not?

Yet here we are, without any sort of back up plan. No bright white Dave Ramsey envelope tucked safely in the center desk drawer. Rather I feel very much like what it may have felt like for those who experienced the scene that took place in Joshua 3. I feel as though we’re at the edge of the Jordan River and we’ve just been told that once we step foot in the water, God will stop up the current and we’ll cross on dry land. It’s a great promise to be sure, but difficult to believe fully when looking out at the water rushing by. None the less, the priests caring the Ark had faith enough in the word of the Lord and followed through with what they were told. The result?

17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

God made good! It’s right there in black and white. While I don’t yet know what God has in store for us; what the next chapter of our story is to be. I do know that he’s faithful and true and will provide for us the space to live out whatever the next chapter is. I can’t explain, except for the grace and wonder of God, how we are at such peace in the midst of such uncertainty, but we are. I don’t know what will happen a month from now if nothing’s changed and I’ve drawn my final pay check. But this much I know. I’m a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords and while I call him Father, he calls me his own. The care he displays for me is greater than the care he shows over the lilies of the field and look how they flourish. I trust that as he knew me intimately well in my mother’s womb, he knows what’s next and he is the God who goes before me. I trust him because I have nothing else strong enough to trust. I hold tight to him because he’s the only thing which is unmovable. I cry out to him for he’s the only one who can interpret and understand the groans of my soul.

With everything that is in me, I completely believe that this is not the end, no it isn’t.

It’s all good! Or is it?

I’ve started tracking what I’m eating… well, I’ve sort of starting tracking; it doesn’t always happen. Actually, I’m starting to track my eating again. It was about this time last year that I began tracking, and somewhere a few months in, I dropped the ball. Unlike some people I’m sure, I don’t track my eating habits at a religious level. I’ve just admitted it doesn’t always happen. And while I track, I try not to obsess.

What I’ve found interesting though is just how much I can “get away with eating” in a given day. Should I add a bit of exercise to the equation, and it’s even more how much I can eat. I know this is simple 4th grade science here, but as someone who likes to eat this comes as a welcomed surprise.

As I’m beginning the mental checklist to ready me for the day, I see ahead of me on the daily horizon I need to mow the yard and also do my C25K workout run. This aha moment has caused in me a certain level of joy and excitement, as it likely means I’m able to darn near eat anything I would like to and still finish the day ahead.

Imagine standing at the start of the day, realize I can eat anything I want. It’s mind blowing really. It’s invigorating. But then the words of Paul creep into my consciousness, and I remember that while everything is permissible to me, it’s not all beneficial. Sound advice when one finds themselves at the forefront of seemingly endless opportunity and possibility.

A caution to myself and to you, enter into the day realizing that while you may obtain it all, not all the day offers is wise to obtain.

You’re Not Helping

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Be warned, I’m crawling back atop my soapbox again…

The other day I took the morning and headed off into the sea of humanity in search of those must-find-last-minute Christmas stocking stuffer items.

Thankfully, as I walked the aisles in search of ideas, congestion wasn’t too bad; moods of the people were generally pleasant and even the hand full of toddlers throughout the store were content.

This was turning out to be a rather decent Christmas shopping day!

Then, just like that, it went South — and in a hurry. Upon ducking off for a quick stop in the restroom, I noticed, there on the baby changing table a tract. No doubt placed dead center on the changing table out of love and compassion for the individual who would see it, be stirred in their spirit to postpone the true business at hand, pick up and read the track, and there at the base of the urinal; now a makeshift alter, accept Christ into their life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all about people coming to discover the love and life that is found only in Jesus Christ. What I’m not about is the method in play.

Let’s consider the reality of the situation here. This table exists for one true purpose, to have a safe and secure place to change your babies dirty diaper. Granted it can be used for loads of other things, but it’s true purpose is so parents can safely and easily change diapers. Generally, when a table such as this is required, the last thing a parent wants to do is have to clear it off of debris. I remember the changing table days… You usually come bursting into the restroom, screaming kid in one arm, overflowing diaper bag and whatever else in the other. Your only real thought is how to drastically improve the situation in the shortest amount of time.

Coming into the restroom to find anything on the changing table is not what any parent wants to deal with. Finding a Christian tract telling me I’d better Turn or Burn lying there is even worse.  It’s just not helpful. I know people who buy these sort of tracts and go to great lengths to litter them all over town are doing so with what they feel are great intentions. But personally, if you want to be helpful, leave some coupons for diapers there by the changing table. Leave something of value for the parent. Don’t leave a tract lying there.

I think we’re missing the many opportunities at hand when all we do is leave a tract. It takes no involvement to leave a tract lying there; as if some how that’s preaching the Gospel. It’s not. It’s no where close. The Gospel is preached so often through our actions and love toward other people. The reality is, to preach the Gospel to other people requires interaction with them. A benign tract laying on the ground is the furthest thing from this. If, as Christ-followers we want to help; to do some good, we’re going to have to get our hands dirty and get involved in the lives of people. Plain and simple. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.

The same theory applies to leaving a tract for your waiter or waitress at a restaurant. If you do this, you’d better match it with a real tip. Better yet, just give her a great tip, clean up the table as best you can, look her in the eye and smile at her as you walk out. But I’m not going down this road… not today anyway.

Okay, I’m stepping down now…