Posted tagged ‘trusting’

Losing All Our Toys In Order To Find Our Way

March 19, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               March 19, 2020

                             

I first met Bill Dohner at a SonLife conference in Chicago in the early days of 1999. I was talking to a pastoral search committee from Colorado Springs, trying to discern God’s leading. He sat down beside me before our first workshop and we did introductions. 

“I’m Bill from Mason, Michigan.”

“Good to meet you, Bill! I’m Bill from Colorado Springs.”

It didn’t seem like a coincidence. As we became more acquainted, he told me his story. At that time he was working at Cook Communications, but it had been a long journey getting there.

He and his wife, Jeanie, had lived in Tennessee, where Bill’s employment situation had been very lucrative. In his own words, he told me, “We had all the toys! A boat, Ski-do’s, motorcycles, nice cars…all the toys we didn’t need.”

And then his employment situation changed drastically and he was looking for a new job. He thought it would be easy to find one, maybe have to take a reduction in pay, but he wasn’t worried about it. However, no new position was offered. He’d interview and not be the choice. They went month after month, burning through their savings and wondering why God was doing this?

They began selling off their “toys” and realizing that their lives had become a bit out of balance. When their last “toy” was sold, Bill received a call from Promisekeepers, based in Colorado, and was offered a position with the ministry. 

He said to me, “Bill, I’m not saying that this needs to be everybody’s experience, but, for us, we needed to lose our toys before we could see our true Hope.” 

Sometimes there needs to be some kind of loss before we can gain. Sometimes our “toys”, whatever they may be, need to disappear in order for us to become grounded again. Sometimes we trust more in our “toys” than we do in our Shepherd.

Bill’s journey became more and more rooted in faith. Promisekeepers had a cut in staff and that’s when he went to Cook. After being at Cook for a few years his whole department was eliminated and he took a position with Family Ministries in Little Rock. Before the position was even offered to him in Little Rock, he and Jeanie had signed a lease for a house.

Someone from Family Ministries said to him, “Wait a minute! You signed a lease before we even offered you the job?”

“Sure! We knew this was where God wanted us to be and we figured he’d catch you up to it.”

“I Don’t Like Faith!”

July 16, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  July 16, 2019

            “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’…” (Matthew 17:20-21, NIV)

Last Sunday I was speaking at First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado…or, as I refer to the folks of the small congregation, the Saints of Simla. As is my custom, I also do a children’s story that goes along with the sermon theme of the day.

I asked one of the older kids to define the word faith. He gave a great answer, saying that faith is “believing in someone to the point that you trust him with your life.”

Awesome answer.

I asked a five year old boy if he would help me illustrate what faith looks like. He stood beside me and I explained that I was going to ask him to close his eyes and fall backwards. I assured him that I would catch him as he was falling. All he had to do was have faith that I would be true to my promise.

Instead of closing his eyes he brought his hands up and covered his eyes with them. Once again, I assured him that I would catch him. He seemed to be a little unsure of this.

Maybe someone had told him about my experience in the seminary class called Ministerial Duties where we practiced and performed baptisms on our fellow students. (Yes, we did!) Bonnie Bell was my baptizing partner and when we practiced without the water she had been reluctant to trust that I could catch her as she leaned backwards. I said, “Bonnie, trust me.” And she did…and I dropped her like a lead balloon on to the floor. 

This boy, however, only weighs about 40 pounds, so I said to him, “Trust me.” I counted to three.

“One, two, three.”

On three instead of falling backwards he just sat down on the floor. No fall, no faith, a lack of belief that Pastor Bill could do what he said he would do. 

It was too scary for him, and when I asked him why he didn’t fall backwards he looked me in the eye with concern on his face and replied, “I don’t like faith.”

Classic!

I worked those words into my sermon that morning with the adults, because the words of the five year old echo in our hearts. There are enormous areas and situations in our lives where we don’t like faith. Faith is risky. It demands a plunge into the unseen that, once begun, can’t be halted…so we don’t like to even begin to lean. 

Churches are like that, also. They adopt a budget that gets referred to as their “financial faith vision”, and then a  number begin grousing about how unreasonable it is. 

I recently connected with an old college friend, who had also been one of the groomsmen in my wedding. Randy was diagnosed with a serious illness a number of years ago that weakens the heart muscle. He had to step out of his middle school teaching position because of it. He has doctor visits and checkups, but he credits the progress in his health to the power of prayer and the healing of Jesus. It’s his picture of “falling backwards and leaning into faith.”

“I don’t like faith.”

I said to the little boy, who looked at me with fear in his eyes, “It’s okay. Most of us have a hard time with it, too.”

Clueing In The Almighty

September 3, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 3, 2018

                               

(The seed thought for this blog post comes from hearing a sermon by Rev. Ed Stucky)

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14, NIV)

Sometimes we treat God like he’s the parent of teenagers…and we’re the teenagers! Remember those days? You know, when, in your opinion, your parents were completely clueless!

We believe it’s necessary sometimes to tell God what he doesn’t seem to know. It’s one of the ways we can stay in control, believing that God doesn’t have it all together, a divine being with developing dementia. 

The Bible gives us more examples of people trying to correct God’s poor decisions than people who took him his word. Moses tried to straighten him out at the burning bush. He was sure that God had mistaken him for someone else, kind of like Isaac mistaking Jacob for his brother Esau. 

Ananias felt God needed an update on who Saul (to be renamed Paul a little later!) was and what he had done. Like a royal advisor, he brought necessary intel to the Almighty All-knowing on this man coming to his city. 

If the Scriptures are filled with examples of people doubting God’s directives we can be assured that it’s a recurring story in our faith journeys. When God directs it’s rarely for something that we would naturally do. For instance, he didn’t have to tell me to go to Starbucks this morning and order a cup of Pike Place coffee. He knows that it’s part of my routine. However, if while I’m at Starbucks he nudges me to give a $20 bill to a man who has just walked in I might very well inform him that I only have one “Jackson” left in my wallet. To which he would reply, “So?”

Faith in the Lord is a slippery thing. We talk about it, learn scriptures that convey it, read stories of it’s existence and magnificence…but when the rubber meets the road of our life we challenge Jehovah God’s intelligence and wisdom. It is the evidence of our fallen nature. We’re prone to believe in the wayward guidance of the Deceiver that sounds good rather than the trusted voice of the Deliverer that causes a queasiness in our digestive systems.

Lord, we believe! Help us in our unbelief! 

The Fog of The Moment

October 31, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             October 31, 2017

                               

This morning our area was greeted with a dusting of snow, twenty-six degrees, and fog. It’s one of those mornings that a person is tempted to fall back into bed to the clarity of being covered with warm blankets.

Most of us, however, don’t have the option of doing that. There are places to go, appointments to keep, and work details to get accomplished. The fog is just one of those things we’ll have to brave this morning. The fog changes how we approach the beginning of our day. Those who refuse to believe that often end up off the side of the road, or crashed into the rear bumper of the car in front of them. And there are plenty of people who are like that…careless, and idiotic!

What about the fog of the moment in our life? What about when things aren’t clear as to where the road is leading, when the next step may lead to a person’s life spinning out of control? What about when a decision that needs to be made is as clear as Mud Creek?

The wise person is one who understands that life must sometimes move ahead slowly, cautiously, preceded with and followed by prayer. The fool is the one who rushes ahead regardless of the situation and circumstances. Solomon’s words to the wise in Proverbs 12:15 say, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice…” Our world is well-populated with people who think their way is right, regardless of the fog of the moment!

But the wise listen to advice, they listen to possible solutions to the uncertainty in front of them, and they proceed slowly. Yes, there is some fog in the midst of our journey of faith. Abram had faith even though he did not know where it was the Lord was leading him, but let’s be honest! For most of us the chaos of our lives results from our reckless rushing into the fog.

The fool trusts his own understanding, but the wise trusts in the leadings of the Lord.

There’s another learning from the fog of the moment that needs to be said. The effects of foolishness often crash up into the ways of the wise. It isn’t fair, but it’s the ripple effect of a fallen creation…that the stupidity of others causes pain in the lives of those who are going the right way. I fully expect that the news of our area this morning will include stories of multiple car crashes, and that the accident was ignited by the carelessness of one. Following Jesus and living wisely does not mean trials will pass you by. The trial may have just rammed you in the rear!

Leaning Not On Your Own Understanding

July 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 20, 2016

                                

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.”   (Proverbs 3:5 from The Message)

Today I helped a group of middle school church campers rappel down a cliffside. For almost all of them this was a first time experience. Actually, it was my first experience also. For about four hours I held a rope and said things like “Awesome! Great job! You can do it! Keep going!”

I asked the question to some of them: What does Proverb 3:5 say?

Trust God…and don’t lean on your own understanding. I learned today that you must not lean forward in fear, but lean back and trust. In essence, we were telling the students to not do what seemed the understandable solution…leaning into the mountain, but rather to lean back and give up control.

A few of the students had a hard time getting past their fears and letting go. For some it took just a little bit of encouragement from the top to get them going…just a small dose of guidance from the top, and belief that they could do it. After the first fifty feet their camp friends down below took up the encouragement.

Another young man came to a point of hesitation, a place between the top and the bottom where he froze and became unmoving. Kent, our lead person, finally rappelled down to him and “unfroze” him. The young man had to be almost pulled along all the way to the bottom. His ego was a bit bruised, but he got to the bottom. Sometimes people need to be pulled along in their spiritual lives, and lives in general. They need a guide who pulls them…an AA sponsor who says the hard things, a coach who won’t let them settle for mediocre effort, a tutor who says “If I have to, I’m going to sit here all day until you get this!”, a pastor who pulls them away from the errors in judgment.

Some people need to be pushed, or in rappelling…pulled! Discomfort is not accepted easily, but sometimes taking people to an uncomfortable place is the needed ingredient for spiritual growth.

A couple of the campers rappelled alongside a friend who was struggling. One young guy, Jacob, knew his friend’s fears were real and inhibiting. Even though he had the ability to rappel down at a much quicker pace, Jacob slowed down to encourage his friend each step of the descent.

Sometimes we need a brother or sister to lean on as we take that next step. What each one of us needs is someone who slows their pace to stay with us. Sometimes we ARE the ones who slow down in order to be with. Last week I officiated at a funeral for a twenty-four year old. I didn’t know the deceased, but I know his dad. Next week I’m going to try to get together with him for a cup of coffee and continued conversation as he rappelled down the mountain of personal loss. He may have some moments in the coming weeks where he “freezes.” I know that I’m probably one of the people that God has placed in his life who needs to help him unfreeze…to continue in the heart wrenching journey of grief.

And it always seems to come back to “trusting and leaning.” Trusting in the Lord with our whole heart…leaning back and experiencing the loving arms of God.

Helicopter Church Members

April 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 8, 2016

                                 

The term, “helicopter parents”, was first used in 1969 By Dr. Haim Ginott in his book Parents and Teenagers. Since that time the skies have been overpopulated with parents who hover over their children for a variety of reasons.

The interesting thing is that churches have helicopter members. These are folk who hover over programs, look for mistakes in the Sunday bulletin, pounce on perceived errors, and question the intelligence of the pastor and/or church leaders.

They think the Kingdom would not be able to operate without them, and even then believe the Kingdom could function more efficiently if God would just let them do it their way.

Helicopter church people come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders. Some contribute to a church by sitting in the same seat each week, and they also…sit in the same seat each week. They are the ones who simply critique. That’s it! They aren’t involved in ministry other then that. They see it as their calling…the ministry of correction! They time the sermon, check the scripture references for accuracy, and ration out their smiles.

Others hover over the pastor. They check his schedule, call him in the late evening and get annoyed when he doesn’t answer. Bottom line: They don’t trust him, just because that’s their right! They grab him every Sunday after the worship service and monopolize his time, even though they know there are visitors present that he would like to meet. They ask him why he isn’t doing certain trivial ministry details, and could care less about community outreach, the homeless, and world hunger. They are concerned that two of the rubber stoppers in the pew communion cup holders are missing, and indifferent about missing members who have been dealing with difficulties.

Then there are the helicopters who are loving and caring, but also smothering. They have good intentions, but don’t understand the boundaries. They look you in the eye with sincerity and ask you how you are doing, and after a response of “Fine”, they question it until the person begins to think that maybe she isn’t doing okay. They mean well, and would give you the shirt off their back, but often take it to an uncomfortable level. However, of the helicopter church members they are the ones who most resemble the people of the first century church.

Just as the term “helicopter parents” came into existence to define those who hover, the church also has those members who hover over any activity, program, function, or detail of the ministries involving their kids and youth. Mind you, there are some parents who “drop and shop”…dropping the kids off and going shopping for a while. But most parents are engaged in their children’s church activities in some way. The helicopter parents micro-manage. They are the “Dance Moms” of the church, sometimes seeing the teacher…the “Abby” of the classroom…as their adversary.

And finally there is the “helicopter pastor” who has his hand in everything and knows everything. He’s been called and ordained, and takes that as God’s authorization for him to dominate and dictate. The Sunday sermon is just one of the various ways he sermonizes each week. When helicopter church members fly in the same zone as helicopter pastors there is bound to be a mid-air collision.

Thus, a new skill set for the church is appearing. One that could be labeled “air traffic controllers”. Controllers guide the helicopters in moving in a safe direction. They discern possible crashes long before they happen, and chart new paths for those who are flying around. It is a special kind of ministry that almost all pastors have no clue about. Seminary education focused on homiletics, Greek, systematic theology, and pastoral counseling. It did not offer a class in “positive movement in ministry”, or “the guidance of agenda-dominated church members.”

In fact, the air traffic controller can rarely be the pastor. The pastor is more like the pilot of one of those helicopters with multiple propellers. He’s usually carrying a heavy load. The air traffic controller has to be trusted by those he/she is guiding. He must establish principles for people to fly by that will not be questioned, for, without a doubt, the hovering members will try to balk when they are told to keep moving.

The thing is…the church needs passionate people who are invested in the ministry. Those saints are to be encouraged, but there comes a point where being invested in needs to be differentiated from owned, and that is sometimes a messy separation.

Seeing Kansas

December 16, 2014

 

A few years ago I was on the top of Pike’s Peak on a clear, beautiful, sunny day. Someone said “You can see Kansas from here!”

My sarcastic nature made me think “Why would you want to see Kansas?” But my next thought was that I wasn’t quite know if we could see Kansas or not. I mean Kansas is a long ways off from Colorado Springs. And, secondly, how do you know where Kansas begins and Colorado ends. There isn’t a definitive line that marks it or a river that you have to cross to get to it…at least on the western side!

So I stood there wondering “Is that really Kansas or not?”

There are certain situations in life…certain sightings, if you will…that we are unsure how to classify. Is the birth of our fourth child…that we hadn’t planned on having…a blessing or an ill-timed additional obligation?

Is the lay-off notice I received the first step of a blessing that will lead me to another profession that I’m passionate about?

Are all the little kids in church an added responsibility and burden that diminishes our energies or the beginning part of a promised future for a congregation?

Was the raising of Jesus by Joseph and Mary seen as being a blessing? I’m sure that Mary could look back at her son and see how she was blessed, but was it seen as being a blessing as they were in the midst of it?

Seeing Kansas is hard from such a distance.

Most of us replay our lives and we ask “What if” questions. We ponder how we might have done things differently. Seldom do we think that maybe we did exactly what God called us to do, and to be exactly where God called us to be.

When we look back we can see the trail that our life made. In our prayerful meditations we can received comfort and encouragement about those times when our path was in sync with the plan of God. We can also painfully recall where we took our own way away from his plan…the effect of it upon us and others, the grief it brought…and rejoice in the fact that God never stopped loving us.

Some of us are in the midst of situations that we are having a hard time seeing there being a blessing involved in it.

But be encouraged! Kansas is out there and the blessings of God will become clearer and clearer as you keep faithfully traveling on.