Category Archives: Past

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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Filed under Church, Moving forward, Past

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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If you could have been there

    What is one experience from the Bible that you wish you could have been there for?  I am sure there are many that we would like to choose but if you could rewind time for a moment and experience one moment in from the Bible in person what would yours be?  As I reflect on the many stories from the Bible and the miraculous things that happened I think I would want to be at the scene where the woman was caught in the act of adultery in John 8.  This is one of my favorite parts of scripture because we have a great opportunity to see an incredible act of mercy and grace.   In this situation when everyone else wanted to pull this woman into the center and stone her to death Jesus just began writing in the sand and then said, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one starting with the older men they began to walk away until it was just Jesus and the woman.  He asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?” to which she replied, “No one, Lord.”  Then I love what happens next Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  To see Jesus show her so much mercy and forgiveness and at the same time so much love for her that he doesn’t want to see her continue down this path of sin and destruction.  Where he didn’t just offer her forgiveness but He offered her a better way to live…the best way to live…the way that lead to life!  This gives me incredible hope for my own life and shows me how his message of love can transform the world.

How about you?  If you could choose to go back in time and experience a scene in the Bible which would you choose and why?

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Filed under Past, Religion

What would you say?

We have probably all been asked the question, “If you were stranded on an island what three things would you take with you?”  We name different items that might help get us off the island, a spouse, or a friend, maybe a good book, or something else along those lines.  Today I want to ask you just one question for you to reflect on, “If you could go back to when you first started serving in the ministry what one piece of advice would you give yourself?”  For the person who always asks to be able to have for one more item to bring along on the island or for a second piece of advice please understand this is hypothetical I don’t really have a DeLorean for you to ride back in time with Michael J. Fox  to tell yourself something important, also for the person stranded on the island don’t worry you are probably already dead…didn’t you ever watch LOST?

So what is that one piece of advice that you would give yourself? For myself it would be don’t find your identity in what you do (ministry position) but find it in whom you belong to (God).  In the beginning so much of myself was wrapped up in if I met a certain goal then God loved me more…now I might not have verbally said this but I could feel it.  If I bombed a talk, didn’t meet my goal of teens at a youth event, or didn’t get a certain amount of adults to be leaders then God was not proud of me anymore.  I would go back and remind myself that God loves me and the ups and downs of ministry will never change that (still have to remind myself this from time to time).  What about you?  What one piece of advice would you give yourself?

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Where are you putting your energies?

Philippians 3:13 says, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
As I read this I could see Paul’s passion. You can see that he still has a way to go but I am challenged by how he looks at the situation. He knew he had not arrived yet but his goal was to know Christ more and to be all that Christ desired for him to be. He was not willing to take his eyes off that goal…he would not let himself be sidetracked. I guess you could say he was a man on a mission.
In that next verse it says, “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” This verse puts a great vision in my head of an athlete striving to be all he can be to win that race! Someone who is relentless in their approach, who is willing to give all they can to get that trophy or medal.
If I may go back to verse 13 something it says really sticks out to me as very important and something I remember from my own life as an athlete. The last part of verse 13 has great importance to our lives as Christians. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. When I ran cross country in high school our coaches would always tell us don’t look behind you, keep your eyes forward at that next person you are going to catch or that next goal you want to reach. I think this advice is so important to our Christian life as well. It can be easy for us to live in yesterday. It can be easy for us to dwell on mistakes we have made in the past, ways that we wish we would have done things differently, or maybe even how we wish other people would have done things differently. It can be so simple to slip into that mode of “If I only…” “I should have done this…” “I should have said this…” When we do that we are taking our eyes off the prize; when we do this we are taking our eyes off our goal. When we look back and dwell on mistakes we have made, ways that we have stumbled, or ways maybe others have hurt us we can’t move forward. We cannot move forward today while living in the past. So today I encourage to leave the past in the past and live for today as you seek to live the wonderful life that God has in store for you!

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Filed under living for today, Moving forward, Past