Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christ in you....

A number of years back, ten years to be exact, I wrote a manuscript which I've thought of trying to publish. It deals with the pain I endured while going through a divorce. For a lot of reasons, I have not yet seen it as the right time to get it published. But, I believe, one day it will be the right time.

It's a story which I believe could help other people through the difficult experience of a failed marriage. And the truth is, my story is not unique as they say that 50% of marriages in America end in divorce. Each story has it's own set of circumstances. But no matter the circumstances, pain is still involved in the process. And there is pain enough to go around to all parties - and the kids as well.

One book that I read during that time spoke of the two parties as "the dumper" and "the dumped". The "dumper" is the one who does something which causes the relationship to break apart. While the "dumped" is the one who is left behind feeling  mostly like the victim. I wrote my story from the perspective of the "dumped". That's what I experienced. I was dumped.

Let me skip right to a key point in my experience. I was sitting on the front deck of my ex-sister in law's home, overlooking a pond. As the sun shone down on me I began to feel like "You're going to make it, Vern. You're going to make it through this." At that instant, I also had another idea go through my mind. The idea was a KEY, a real physical KEY. I heard the words "You hold the KEY to your healing, Vern." I guess I had been looking to my ex to bring my healing. Maybe, I expected my kids to bring me healing. But the KEY really was me. It wasn't me alone. It was me and my relationship with God. Better said -- it was God's relationship with me. After all, God is the one who initiated the work He has done in my life. I can take no credit for it.

Let me close this blog with some words that Paul wrote which I have found so comforting at many instances in my life. (Colossians 1:27)  "Christ in you, the hope of glory". Read this in its context and let me know how you're affected by it. Perhaps God will help you through some difficult days in your life. Maybe, God will bring healing to you in some way. He has me and He continues that work.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Soulish Rest

There are certain times when we go from one thing to the next at such a rapid fire pace that we may think we're losing our way. And going at such a pace can be handled, for awhile. But I've found from personal experience that it is impossible to keep up that pace for an extended period of time.

God has built us to work and to work hard. But He has also built us to have a regular schedule for not being busy, but to rest (in Him). Now I know that many people may take the time to rest by doing something that is contrary to what they do regularly. A change of pace - a change of scenery - a change of what you do. I like to ride motorcycle and sometimes need to do that just for the 'change of pace - scenery - & what I do'. But I am not totally convinced this is what God really had in mind when He had in mind REST.

Resting in God is mostly for, what I call,  soulish-rest. My body needs rest. My mind needs rest. My emotions need rest. But what about my soul needing rest? What, I believe, God had in mind when he said "Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord." (Exodus 31:15), that we need soulish-rest. 

Eugene Peterson said something about rest in one of his books. When we rest at night (or whenever we rest) we ought to say something within our own head like "Okay God, I know you don't rest and so I'm going to rest in the fact that you're working night and day. I, however, cannot do that -- I'm human and you're God. So, when I get back to work, before I start I'm going to check in with you as to what You've been doing and where it is that you'd like me to jump in and work alongside." In other words, it's God's work and He never quits. And our assignment is to "rest in Him". And that ain't easy. But it certainly will give us a better way of doing things. And we will really get, what I call, the soulish-rest we need. 

Is anybody out there "TIRED". 

Monday, August 28, 2017

I want to say something here that if I don't say it, no one will ever know it. I remembered just this morning what it felt like when I was thinking about going back to school (over 30 years ago). Why I thought about going back to school and eventually did go back to school had all to do with an internal work.

My family and I were attending a church that met in a home and worship took place in the downstairs of their two-story home on Sunday mornings. The Pastor and his wife were two people that helped me to realize how much closer I really wanted to be with God than I presently was. As I sat under their ministry and began to get a sense of where they were coming from, I began to sense a lonely/longing within me. I had accepted Christ by faith but I was longing for a closeness that wasn't being satisfied.

I was learning to read the bible and the more I read and studied the bible the more I began to sense a closeness to God. This won't make sense to everyone, but I began to feel God close to me when I read His words and I felt He was speaking to me. Of course, the closeness came as a result of studying and then obeying God's Word.

So, here is what I recently remembered about that time. I began to consider going back to school. I had checked out some schools for training in fine woodworking. But that didn't seem to have quite the right draw for me. I enjoyed working with wood, but there was something else at my core that was crying for attention. I was hungry to be close to God and I was beginning to get that through reading and studying and obeying God's word. But I wanted more and more of that. I was lonely for God and so I began to look at schools where I could learn more about how to study the bible.

So it all came to be that I went back to school to get my Bachelor degree in Bible. And then I went onto Seminary to get my Master of Divinity. And the reason for doing that was so that I might study the bible and get closer and closer to God. And the result of all that was this. I went on to become a Pastor of a local Church. But that was never my intention when I began the journey. But it certainly became the outcome.

I guess what I really want to say is that it was all well and good to become a pastor of a local church. But the gut honest reason for getting a bachelor degree in bible and a master of divinity degree was to know God on a deeper level - so I could honestly hear His Words to me. I guess I remembered that in order to return to my first love for God. I am now in pursuit of hearing God speak to me in a fresh and new way. Anyone interested in joining me in this pursuit?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Emotional Wreckage!

I just finished my Monthly Report and realized I have not written anything here for a month. As I reviewed the month, I think I know why. There are times when emotional strain is more challenging. This past month was one such time. I've had other times when emotional strain has been high.

Let me share with you a brief glimpse into a time of utter emotional wreckage for me. If God has ever carried me, it was during this time these now, many years ago. This season of my life was marked by almost complete and utter devastation. I thought I was losing my mind. I was filled with shame and anger and such dislocated emotions, I didn't really know what to do. My most obvious consideration was each moment of each day.

My two daughters were a lifeline for me. At least, I'll say, the thought of them and their future was what kept me moving forward. So I thank their existence in my life for that. They were very concerned for me and my well being. I also can be thankful that God placed some good friends and other family  around me. I did not know how good they were until I looked back and saw how they spoke into my life at just the right times. They, in their own way, guarded me from making critically stupid decisions. You all probably know what critically stupid decisions are. That seems to be something all of us have known.

What this season of my life was and what it was that brought me to a place of such horror was that I was learning to live with the reality that my wife of twenty four years was legally separated from  me and we were headed for a divorce. I never thought that would be a reality I would experience. So much for me being the exception to the rule.

I don't want to go into a lot of details, other than to say that during those days, weeks, months and years, I felt a closeness to God more than I had before. I do remember some of my reading being in the book of Job and also the book of Lamentations and Jeremiah. I drew fresh strength each day from those words of God. They were words from when people experienced something horrific in their life. It was freeing for me to realize I wasn't alone in going through feelings of complete abandonment and distress.

This past month has been nothing to the level of what I experienced those many years ago. But, I was reminded of how God brought me through such a horrible time. I was reminded of how it is people who God uses to help people. And also I was reminded that life is seasonal. And it is no season that lasts forever. It only, sometimes, feels that way. God is in charge and it is best when I learn to trust Him. Good results come from that.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There came a day when I realized that I was being consumed by self. And this was endless and  fruitless and downright destructive behavior.  The fact is, I really couldn't get past Self. But there came an introduction, an invitation by someone to someone else who was completely different than that. This someone else was so different and yet I could relate to him. This someone else was incredibly selfless. He was so different and yet so much like me. He had as many opportunities to express selfishness, and yet he had the ability to consistently turn away from his selfish nature.  I thought "Yeh! Right! I see him now but I wonder if He is like that all the time." And so I decided to follow him to see if or when he messed up.

Well, I've been following him for quite a number of years now. And you know what, he is just as selfless now as he was when I was first introduced to him. The fact is, I've come to call him my best friend. And he even calls me his friend. He is exactly what I want to be like when I grow up. And believe me, I've got a lot of growing up to do. But, as I have followed him, I see that slowly but surely I have come to have some changes in me. And I really like these changes. I, at least sometimes, think of others first. Once in awhile I do something genuinely good. And it is because of his influence in my life.

And let me tell you some other things I've seen changed in me. I'm not as self destructive. My life feels more fruitful. When I'm having some down in the muck sort of days, I just need to turn to my friend and we talk about it. And he is always there to provide the counsel I need. I don't always like what he says and I tell him so. But I've discovered that what he tells me is always exactly what I need. He has never forced stuff upon me. No, he has always been so patient and gracious with me. Go figure! I am also learning (very slowly mind you) to be patient too. That seems to be helpful for me. Cause, you see, I'm not by nature a patient person. But my nature is changing. I'm becoming less full of myself and more full of others. Particularly, I'm more full of my friend. And my friend's name is Jesus.

I don't know what this sounds like to you. But I'm telling you the truth. This friend of mine, my best friend, is someone that I'd like to introduce everyone to. But if you do not want to meet him, that is your loss. But he already knows you from the beginning to the end. He is already closer to you than a brother. He is always there for you. And he is able to show you something different than your own selfishness, if that is what you want. So, take it forward from there. Do with this what you will. But I'm hoping you won't neglect this invitation.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Detours...a fact of life

Going forward doesn't mean you're facing forward all the time.

After I had begun following Christ, I took on some different activities. I was attending church. I got involved in a men's bible study. I also began  a routine of spending 15-20 minutes in the morning reading my bible and praying.  I also gave up my after work activities with the boys. Getting stoned and catching the alcohol and pot buzz wasn't important anymore. And that, of course, made the boys ask questions.

Now my activities of 'change' didn't necessarily mean I was totally free from their grip. Let me tell you about one occasion where I caved in. This wasn't the only one, but it's the only one I'm going to tell you about for now.

We lived in this beautiful mountain village in Colorado. We had purchased a home there on the hillside near the hospital and it overlooked the town. What a great place to live. The Elk roamed freely through our yard and raided our garden...regularly. It seemed like Saturday night was always their night for a raid. A friend of mine, from back east, had come to visit. But really, we were just a stopover for them. This friend and a friend of his came with their van and a trailer. They both had motorcycles strapped to the trailer. They stayed with us a couple days and then headed to California on their bikes.

We had been motorcycle and pot smoking buddies in the past. And so we had a conversation about the use of drugs. I told them that wasn't part of my life any longer. I was following Christ and that was more important to me. Well, just before they headed out to California, he told me that if I wanted, there was some stuff in the glove box.

Well, they left. A few days later, while all alone at the house, I began to think "would it feel as good to get high as I remember it?" And so, I went out to their van and instead of looking in the glove box I looked in the ash tray. There I found a partially smoked joint (marijuana cigarette). I sat in the van and I smoked that joint. In just a few moments I was higher than a kite. I began to pray "God, help me to come down from this." God did not instantly lower me back down to an un-stoned condition. It wore off as a result of it's normal wear off time. But what that felt like for me was a literal wall coming up between me and my God. And I did not enjoy feeling separated from Him. I had come to want, more than anything, the realization that God was close to me.

Has anybody ever gotten detoured and then realize the foolishness of getting off track? Or, am I the only one? www.unitedchurchofderuyter.org

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fully Forward --

Some 35 years or so ago, I began on a journey that continues still today.

I was sitting on a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley town in the Rocky Mountains. There was a party about to begin at the home where the rock I was sitting on. While sitting there and drinking my favorite Colorado beer, I began to talk to myself. It was in the form of, what I can now say was, a prayer. I said something like, "I do not even know if you exist, but if there is a God I would like you to come and make some changes in my life. Things are not going so well for me at this time. I am a fairly new father and my wife isn't so happy with my continual smoking pot and drinking." I had smoked marijuana at least once a day since I'd been discharged from the military, and that was at least five years before. I had quit spending my money on pot. Instead I'd become quite successful at growing my own. I can honestly say it was 'pretty darn good stuff'. "But I need and I want some changes in my life. And I don't even know if you exist - God."

That about summed up my conversation with myself. 

For the next 6 months there was nothing much different. But then we went to a move with a neighbor couple. The movie was called "A Thief in the Night". It's was a 1970's movie dramatizing what it might be like when Christ returns for his people. One spouse will be laying in bed and the other will be taken up (by the Lord). And the movie presented what Luke 17:34 might look like.

After the movie, we were standing out front of the theater and the wife of the other couple said "I can't believe God would leave one behind on earth and take the other spouse with him". I responded with "Why wouldn't God do this? It's not like this is a surprise attack. He has warned us about that happening from the very beginning." Well this conversation ended up in me getting a bible and I began to read the gospel of John "In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God." It was almost like light bulbs went off inside of my mind. I began to see that it was Jesus who was all that I had looked for in all of the wrong places.

That was how I began on this journey that still carries me fully forward. Do any of you have a story to tell of how you began on your journey? And are you still going fully forward?