Category Archives: Moving forward

The Art of Letting Go

I was recently reading a book called, “Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together” by Ed Cyzewski when he shared something that hit my chest like a brick.  Talking about himself…

“Anxiety and fear became habits that have worn their way into my life after years of practice.  I also suspect they are behind my desire to control my life circumstances and the rage I feel when circumstances don’t line up the way I want.  So many events in my early life felt completely chaotic and out of control, that I’ve made myself a nervous, controlling wreck trying to reassert control over at least a few things.”

As I said this was Ed describing himself but he easily could have been describing me even though he has never met me.  Many people don’t know this but anxiety can show up in someone’s life as irritability and that is definitely one way it shows up in mine.  When things don’t go the way I have planned or there are unexpected changes it can throw me for a loop. As with Ed, earlier in my life, things felt pretty chaotic.  I moved several times back and forth across states, switching schools, trying to make new friends all the while trying to adjust to not only my parent’s divorce but also my new surroundings.

I can remember when I moved back to Iowa with my mother and younger brother I was filled with a lot of anger and rage.  Not only was I dealing with the task of making new friends but also a drastic decline in finances.  While my mother did her best it still was not enough to make ends meet so we received food stamps and welfare.  My brother and I were two of the kids whose names were placed on the Christmas trees at Christmas time in need of gifts, I received free school lunches and free school supplies donated from churches.

I did not want to be the kid everyone picked on because clearly, I did not have the coolest clothes and many times I was overdue for a haircut, so I discovered if I could become a class clown and also be aggressive towards other people then I might just fit in and not be the target of bullying.  This seemed to work well so I continued to act up in class, cuss words pretty much filled every sentence of mine from a very early age, and I seemed to get in fights on a normal basis.  This attitude presented a front of strength, but in actuality, it was fear and weakness in disguise.  I was greatly in need of help.

My life to say the least was chaotic.  While my life now is much different there is still a temptation to exert control over my life.  I think the greatest way I feel this now is with my 3-year-old daughter.  She is a wonderful child that I love very much, but she is very strong willed and persistent (much like myself).  As I said before I like things to go as I have planned and 3 year olds are great at throwing a wrench in the mix whether that is dumping ranch dressing on themselves like mine did when we were getting ready to go somewhere yesterday, refusing to brush her teeth unless you let her do it while she pretends to be a cat, asking for something approximately 5,000 times, or singing the same line of song over and over again while you are trying to focus on completing a project.   These types of things definitely increase my desire to exert control over the situation.  It is in times like these that it is very easy for me to become irritable and not patient or gentle.  Why?  Why is that my response?  I think in some way it is because if I can control that situation then I have control over my life, but to understand that things are going to happen sometimes that I can do nothing about requires me to have faith.

So, while I am not going to be flawless at this all the time my prayer is that I will begin to exhibit more faith and gentleness.  I will seek to practice the art of letting go instead of holding onto nervousness and control.  As you reflect on your own life where might you need to do the same thing?

 

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Filed under Moving forward, Past

Healing

Yesterday I preached the 3rd week of our “I am a Church Member” series where I discussed leading our families to be healthy church members.

One of the big questions we need to ask is how am I showing my family members what it means to love God, to love others, and to love the church?

It can be so easy in the church to hold onto old grudges and division than to seek healing, unity, and forgive others. At times we forget how much we have been forgiven and we forget to extend that same forgiveness to others.

In our American society we have been conditioned to think that the church exists to meet our desires, wants, and preferences rather understanding that as a member of the church we are to give and to serve. If we are to break this cycle we must lead our families by our example. We must love as Jesus loves us. We must extend forgiveness as Jesus forgives us. We must extend grace just as much as Jesus has shown in grace.

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New Journeys

I am sure this is one of about 2,539,789,243 blog posts, web articles, magazine articles that are about new things in the new year.  Most of them will be about things we want to begin doing or stop doing in the new year.  Many people will make resolutions to spend more time with the family, to get in shape, quit smoking, lose weight, get out of debt, get organized, or many other worthy causes.  Some will start out strong in this race as they go get a gym membership, buy healthier snacks, buy some nicorette patches, buy a calendar to organize some family activities, or sit down and make a budget.  Some will stick to their guns and this will be a life change while others will try it for a couple of weeks and give up.

I am not really big on New Years resolutions because in many ways it seems we try to make the mind submit to something that we have not surrendered in our heart and with our will.  One of the things that God has really been teaching me the last several months is the art of surrender.  To truly let myself decrease and let him live through me.  This process of sanctification where I am continually becoming more and more like Christ in my life.  For there to be true change in me I must surrender everything about me to the authority of Christ.

So as you begin to kick off this new year ask yourself have I surrendered my life to Christ?  Are you letting yourself be renewed each and every day?  Are you decreasing and letting Christ increase in your life?

Through our obedience in Christ I believe we will sense God’s leading like never before.  I have seen God moving in my life in such a clear way recently that honestly it has been scary.  Part of that for me is going back to school so I can get my Masters of Divinity degree.  This was not something I imagined doing but I have felt God’s hand so clear in this matter.  This is intimidating to me since it has been over 10 years now that I graduated with my bachelors degree in Youth Ministry.  The more I let go of my fears and clung to Christ the more I felt my fears fade away.  So today ask yourself where is God trying to lead you?  Are you listening?  Have your surrendered your life to his will for you?  Are you willing to begin that new journey?

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Silence

    Lately I am being reminded about the importance of silence.  That action of taking time to be silent before God.  As a minister a lot of times I am expected to have answers.  People have spiritual questions and they want to be able to come to someone who might be able to help and many times I am that person.  Honestly I enjoy being able to guide people in their faith, to direct people to the truth in God’s word, and even at those times when I don’t know the answer just say, “I don’t know.”

Lately with everything going on with my mom I have stopped trying to come up with answers and I have just been silent before God and have tried to listen to the Holy Spirit.  For those of you who don’t know my mom has stage 4 cancer, has recently been taken off chemotherapy, and been given 2-3 months to live.

When we encounter a tough situation it can be easy to go to God with a lot of words, fire off a quick amen, and then be on our way….but are we listening to God and not just talking?  Lately I have felt like God has said to me, “Just be here…be present with me…don’t talk just listen.”  It is amazing even during this difficult time the peace God has given me in this situation.  Believe me it is not easy, I have rough moments, and I definitely have a lot of questions but in the midst of those things I know I have a loving God who deeply cares more than I will ever know.

So today I want to encourage to not always be busy doing but take time to be silent and listen to God.

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Filed under Family, Moving forward

What are you afraid of?

    I love roller coasters, the thrill of whipping around corners, doing some loops, flying down a giant hill but I really hate high unstable heights.  Put me on the Millennium Force Roller Coaster at Cedar Point no problem but have me stand on the edge of a really tall building and the cold sweats starting coming.  I remember my Sophomore year in college our soccer team played a game on Friday night and then we went whitewater rafting the next day in West Virginia.  About the midway point there was a giant rock that we were allowed to climb and jump off of into the water.  At the top of the rock it was a 40 foot drop till you hit the water.  They explained that if you went to the top you had to jump off there was no turning back.  So I went up to the top of the rock with most of my teammates but once I got up there I asked myself, “What were you thinking!? You hate high heights like this!”  So I took a look over the edge…which was not wise because I am pretty sure my heartrate was at 800 beats a minute after that.  However, I knew I had to do it, I had climbed this high and there was no turning back.  So I took a couple steps back and then took a leap off of the giant rock!  It was awesome and scary all at the same time!

Jumping off of the 40 foot tall rock however pales in comparison to what this guy in the video does all the time for his job as he climbs to the top of these transmission towers.  Just watching that video is frightening to me.  I love how at the one point he says it is time to stop to take a break and look around!  You got to be kidding me!  There is no way I would be looking around I would be so focused on holding onto the tower and closing my eyes to look around!

So why did I bring this up?  It is because many times we can let the fear of the unknown keep us from doing great things.  It is much easier to stick to the rhythms of life that we are use to.  We can cling to the plans in our lives that are tried and true, that we are comfortable with, and never experience the joy of stepping out in faith.

So my challenge to you today is step out in faith, be willing to take a risk, and walk in the path of the unknown.

What is one fear you have?

What is an area of your ministry that you need to take a step of faith in?

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Filed under Leadership, Moving forward

Lies!

I believe that Satan tries to tell us many lies that will distract us or tear us away from the truth that God wants to share with us.  I think one of the lies I bought into early on in my ministry was I had to look bullet-proof, no struggles, and have all the answers.  I have no problem now saying I have struggles, I cry, I get overwhelmed, and I am ok saying I don’t know to a theological question.

I think I believed this was the best way to minister was to buy into this lie.  How could I actually answer a question about God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit with I don’t know?  How could I share that I have doubts or confusion at times in my walk?  What if I told people I struggled with depression and anxiety would they still want me to be their minister?

However, when I really began looking at the people God worked through in the Bible it became crystal clear that it is in our weakness that He is strongest!  That these things I struggled with didn’t disqualify me from the ministry but actually made it possible for God to work through me in an even greater way!  I chose to stop believing the lie that I had to have all the answers and have no struggles and started believing the truth that God wanted to use me in a big way, to go into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

What lies have you bought into in the past?

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Filed under God, Moving forward, Religion

Learning From Mistakes

One of the biggest steps of faith that I have taken lead to one of my biggest failures.  During late spring of 2004 I was offered a new youth ministry position at a church in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This was a big decision for our family because we loved our church family at Village United Methodist, most of our friends were around the central Ohio area, as well as my most of my ex-wife’s family which I was just as close to as my own.  It would be a big change as we would be moving several states and many hours away from many of our comforts.  I felt it was time to move on from my current role in the ministry and God was asking me to step out in faith to accept this new role.  So we made the big step to move to Virginia…

Too be honest I was excited to move on to this next role because I didn’t have the best relationship with the Senior Pastor at my previous church, the new church had around 800 people on a Sunday morning which meant more youth to work with in the ministry, I enjoy history and living in Colonial Williamsburg was an awesome treat, and only being less than an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean was also a nice perk.

However, it became apparent very quick that this church was definitely not the right fit for our family.  The goals and visions that I had did not match up with the goals and visions of this church. I have served primarily in United Methodist Churches and tend to lean conservative in my faith and the church I joined was not.  I saw very quickly that I was so excited to move onto the next stage in my life that I didn’t do my homework like I should have, I didn’t ask enough questions, I wasn’t honest with myself with who I was and who this church was and it was not a good fit.  I think the same thing happened for that church as well where they were so excited to get a new youth pastor that they didn’t see the red flags that I wasn’t the right person for their church or this position.

After only about a half a year I resigned from my position at the church.  It was definitely not my desire to move my family several states away to only stay at my position a short time.   This hit me hard, this wasn’t the plan in my mind, I honestly didn’t know what to do.  I began working at a local public high school in the special education department and that was an awesome experience and I had the awesome privilege to work with an amazing teen named Carl. Thankfully I was also able to be a part of a great church family for a year until we moved back to Ohio.   The next several years I paid for my decision to step down from my position after only a short time.  No one was really interested in hiring someone who only worked at a church for that short of time.  I ended up volunteering at a church with some wonderful people and learned a lot and then in September 2008 I was hired to be the Minister of Youth and Young Adults at Church of the Cross in Toledo, Ohio.  I had been out of full-time ministry for about 4 years before I had the opportunity to join the staff at COTC.   I have been here a little over 3 years now and I am so thankful for the opportunity that has been given to me to minister to those in this community.  It has not been an easy road but God has taught me a lot along the way.

What has been a failure you have encountered in the ministry that you have learned the most from?

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