Saturday, January 26, 2013

The other day I remembered an incident from a motorcycle ride a few years back and for some reason it has stuck with me.  It was Barb and my first long ride with a group and on the last day as we were heading home we had to ride out in a heavy rain. We stopped for breakfast hoping the rain would let up but it would not. So we headed out...three bikes heading home after a great week of riding. Of course Barb and I had the worst rain suits ever and the other tried to talk Barb into tying plastic bags over her shoes to keep her feet dry. Come on. No one looks cool with plastic bags tied to your feet...even Barb. So she refused. 

Well, we left out and it was raining and on the highways you get lots of spray off the cars and trucks around you. It was wet...and not real comfortable feeling...little scary I suppose. Somehow I ended up leading the pack through a downtown interstate area and we got beside a truck and we had to decide whether to pass or not. So I am leading...wondering what the others would like to do. Pass? Stay? Pass? Stay? No way to ask. Now I begin to feel the pressure to lead...I am uneasy. Water spraying, rain falling, road wet. WHAT DO I DO? 

I decided to pass the truck...on the right at least three lanes of traffic. The cool thing about being on the bike is no one can tell I am scared. All looks the same from behind me I suppose. Even Barb cannot tell. So I go for it. The good news is we made it just fine...and even if I had wet myself no one could tell because I was soaked anyway! But I was really tense going around the truck. I might not have done it if we had been by ourselves but with others following expecting you to go. 

I read this the other day: Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.  ~Dan Rather. Dan is not a guy I will probably quote a lot and I am not saying it took courage to pass...but as a leader I find myself leading even if I am not feeling the bravest at the time. People are either lead or get out of the way. I remember on mission trip we had a young high school guy with us working and he did everything slow. Now he was a great guy to have on the trip but he was not a sprinter for sure. We were carrying paint supplies into a building we were going to paint and he was in front of me carrying some items and I was right behind him carrying a bag of cement mix. He was moseying along and finally I said, “Anthony, either speed up or step out of the way.” He started to speed up...then shrugged his shoulders and moved over so I could pass. Great memory for me. 

I have felt the poking or prodding from others as they wait to see if I will lead. I have also felt the poking and prodding from the Lord to see if I will lead or not. His is gentle prodding for sure but still there with persistence.  God is the only One who really knows when we are afraid to lead and He is the only One we can count on to go with us as we lead. Others may not go...He will. The angel of the Lord came to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon is hiding in a cave! Mighty warrior! You have to appreciate the Lord’s great kindness to call to us as He sees and knows us not how we see and know ourselves. Being afraid does not disqualify you from means you are human. Does the fear lock you you hear the voice of the accuser reminding you how big of a chicken you are? Do you hear our own voice telling you you cannot do it? Do you hear the lies from your past saying you have always been a coward. What makes you think anything is different now?

I love being around people that seem to be fearless. Nothing is a problem. No problem is their favorite answer...we can take that hill! (or whatever they are going after) Well maybe I don’t really love it...but I am fascinated by it...appreciate it when I see it. So different from my wiring it can be confusing to me and I can get offended by and I begin to accuse them of not having humility...not true at all, just me. I guess when I write I am writing for the leader like myself...that is not John Wayne. For every very confident leader there is another leader God has called and is looking for the confidence to put one foot in front of the other. To keep moving at all. I am not sure one is better than the other but I do know this...who God calls He will equip. If God chooses to use you or me in a leadership role He will not only send us out...He will go with us!

Gideon threw out fleeces to God...if this is you do this...or this...or that. I think it came to the point where God would bypass Gideon’s asking and just say, “If you need to know more do this...or listen to that.” I do not do a lot of fleecing but I do a lot of God.  

The challenge we all will face is if He has called you to lead then you must lead. It is simple obedience. He is not sending you or me out to fail...but He is sending us lead. I know you did not pursue a title or some position...He chose you...He pursued you. I think we all have to put ourselves in a place to hear the Father say, “Hey there mighty warrior, I am with you.” 

Yep! I was afraid that day on my bike...not a big deal really...but it is a reminder that to walk on water you have to push fear back, look at Jesus, and get out of the boat. Either God is who He says He is or He is not. Either He is with us or He is not. I am meditating on something AW Tozer once said: The most important thing you think is what you think about God..” (might not be an exact quote) I am thinking that as a pastor one of the things others want to know from me as a leader is just that...what do I think about God. It will show up in our leading...or lack thereof. 

So all of my chicken friends out there...let’s lead through the fear of failure...through our weaknesses...because if you are leading...someone is following. I have an acquaintance nearby, another pastor who teaches spiritual formation primarily to pastors. What he does to start each session is send the class out with the 23rd Psalm and a notebook and pen and instructs the class to read and listen. You know if you struggle with much fear as a leader I really would recommend you doing the same. Become very familiar with this Psalm...and what God would say to you through it. Good stuff. 


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Oh boy...a new year...2013 Funny. I was trying to think back to when I would have begun noticing the new year...probably about the time I entered school. Until then who cared...but when you started school then you had to put the date on papers and such. So I would guess I began noticing about 1957...ouch! That is a loooooong time ago. It was a good year for Chevy I guess, and a good year to head to first grade. So then I head into high school in the ’60’s...the turbulent 60’s. Did not seem all that turbulent to me...I think you begin to assume assassinations and mobs burning down cities were kind of normal. Didn’t that happen all the time? Viet Nam...did not really want to participate in that...aren’t never ending wars normal? I was busy trying to find a girl friend, make it to the big leagues as a baseball player, and not to flunk out of school. So the 60’s did not seem at that weird to me...great music for sure. I went to Woodstock...the movie. 

So the 70’s and I decide to follow Jesus...the Jesus movement was in full swing...I think I got swept in by that move, but in reality I was saved in a small, country church that was full of people from Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia and other parts south. I was in the minority as far as not having an accent...or maybe I had the accent. So while many were coming to Jesus in cool places where hippies gathered and rock music was played...I was hearing hell fire preaching 3 times a grass music by whoever was not back-slidden that week...and wearing leisure suits. Yep leisure suits...platform shoes...that’s enough of that.

The 80‘s were our really big church age I more listening to music with a beat. That is the devils music...only Christian music played here...became a charismaniac....lots of fun and weird. Church got weird in more ways than one. Cultish at times. 

90’s found us being introduced to Vineyard....should have ran I guess. Did look at where I am! I need to say this, when we discovered the Vineyard it was like finding out family...our tribe. I am quite sure only the Vineyard would have said yes to Barb and I planting a church. I was a factory worker looking forward to retiring one day and doing what ever God wanted...THEN...not now. I am so grateful for guys like Danny Meyer and Rich Nathan telling us to go for it when it really did not make much sense for them to agree to it. So mid 90’s planting our Vineyard.

Then the turn of the century...2000...Y2K. Who could ever forget Y2K? I could...what a bunch of hype...and much of it from the church. I can remember a young man asking me when was I going to start warning the congregation about the impending doom of Y2K. I think I said I would do something the first week end in January of 2000...he thought that might be a bit late. It was fine. Now I need to let you in on one of my funny Y2K moments. The one thing I did do was but some extra gas for around the house. About 30 gallons in five six gallon cans. I thought maybe we should have some extra gas around if gas station computers crashed...and also I would have plenty for my lawn mower for the summer. Well, nothing happened and one day in my garage I stumbled on one my of my gas cans and it slid across the floor empty. Huh? So I kicked another one...empty. All five cans...empty. I scratched my head and wondered what had happened. Then I knew what had happened. My son had happened. Since the cans were sitting there full and Y2K had passed he assumed the gas was up for grabs. All of it! I told him he had to refill the cans. I think I got one can filled back up. He is a smart one.

So now we are passing into to 2000 teens...2013. I am 61 years old...61 and a half Dave tells me. Been on the calendar since 1951. Back in the 60‘s, the decade not my age, 61 was ancient. Really, really old. Now it just seems...old. Following Jesus for over 40 years and it still seems like I am a beginner. Married to my best friend for 40 years...still trying to be a better spouse. Two grown kids...six grandkids...amazing! I could not imagine myself in 1957 as a grandparent...or even having a girl friend. 

I guess as I write today I am thinking there was nothing in the my past that would have pointed to me being here, doing what I do today. Never went to church as a kid, ever. Really was not a leader in school though I was elected Sgt. at  Arms of my Senior class, more popularity than leadership skills. I remember being picked to captain the football team one game...I froze...could not even call out heads or tails. Leader? Not so much. When I surrendered to Jesus I think God began preparing me and Barb for leadership down the road. We served in every role in the church imaginable...bus ministry...Sunday school teacher...choir director (no kidding) the church. Whatever needed to be done...we did. That is the way I thought it was supposed to be. I think early on I suspected God could call us to an assistant or something like that. In our church life we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and it has helped form us to lead the way we lead. What we saw good we could hold onto but other stuff we would run from...manipulation...not knowing what you believed...control.etc. We said no way. 

Have we been perfect even close. But Danny Meyer told us long ago, “Build a church you would want to go to and others will want to go there also.” I have had lots of good advice over the years but that has been a cornerstone to what we do. May sound selfish but I have friends that pastor churches they do not like and would not go to if they did not work there. Sad. So happy New year to you and has been a long journey for sure...I have seen so much...assassinations, school shootings, planes flying into buildings, people blowing buildings up, multiple long wars. The Jesus movement...the charismatic movement...laughed through Y2K...Toronto blessing...wept as friends died too young...a lot of stuff. My hope is that in all of it God was able to shape and build things into me that help me as a leader. Life shapes can beat us down and defeat us or it can make us to be the leaders and people God has intended for us to be. We choose. I choose to be clay in the hands of the about you?