The Journey Continues: April 30, 2016

The journey this particular week has been nothing but hectic.  I write this with gritted teeth.  I love this time of year.  If it were possible that I could be outside working in yards, mine along with everyone else who’d like to have some help, I’d be there.  Well, along with working the earth, my nephew is in the hospital, a funeral takes place, my wife plans an outing for us, my daughter needs to have her irrigation started, a new schools wants help with their instructional practices, a new pastor is coming and I want to be able to spend time with him and his family.  Well, that’s a start for today–just today.  I want to literally do each of these things as a first priority because I love each one involved in them, yet, there is only so much time in a day and I know I’ve got to prioritize.

I asked God this morning how a “new creation” handles this list.  I’ve always faced days like this with anxiety simply doing all of them I possibly can and shutting out any feelings about not getting to the others.  I’d tell myself–“I did the best I could.”  It was interesting this morning as I started my devotions.  I was truly in my old self filled with anxiety and not knowing how to prioritize the day.  I don’t want to handle any of these with that sense of “duty”, I want to embrace the opportunity and do it with friendship and love.  God seemed to be saying to look at this list as an opportunity to serve Him rather than serving man.  All of a sudden I realize where my eyes were and what I was listening to.  I was hearing man and my responses to man rather than hearing man and listening to how God wanted me to respond.  My first priority is serving God, not man.  There is a huge difference at the end of a day when you know you’ve done all you can for the Lord.  The peace that passeth all understanding sets in. In my past when a day like today would end I’d want to hide in a corner and say, “God, I did the best I could.  I hope that it’s been OK.  The old self would only feel the disappointment of not completing all he should have.  Today, I’m going into this as a new creation doing all I can for the God I serve.  At the end of it—well I’ll wait and see what God has for the end of it.  I think it will be something like a deep-settled peace.

(Boy, did I need to write this.  It has helped me already!)

The Journey Continues: April 29, 2016

This journey of living “one day at a time, one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace” is a superb piece of wisdom.  Living it however is a challenge most days for me.  I know that I need to surrender all my worries to Jesus each morning in order to find victory and that sense of peace–the sense that I don’t need to be in control–God already is.  I can join His work as I surrender my need to control.  I hate seeing these needs in me, but they are very real and I do need to take these steps of surrender frequently.

The drive to do things for God use to be so I could find value.  I can more fully see that the value I sought was within my own eyes.  I’ve learned I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone else, it was me.  I was judging my own self.  This is a rude awakening.  I tend to take on most any assignment offered to me thinking God wouldn’t have it said to me if He weren’t wanting me doing it.  However, I’m now learning much more about discernment.  Taking all things to Him to find His will.  What sounds like God working initially isn’t always where God wants me.  I was called earlier this week by a school system that asked me to work with them evaluating their teachers.  I was glad they called and met briefly with them.  I’m going back later this am to continue this conversation.  God has been pointing out to me that just because they are asking for help doesn’t mean it is with His intent.  I need to probe to find whose interest they are wanting to fulfill.  Is it the administration’s selfish wishes or does it actually grow the profession I love–teaching?  I’ll be more discerning as I meet with them today.

The other thing I’m learning of late is about priorities.  Our step study group is in the midst of this topic right now.  I know to rate family at the top, however, I still impulsively put other assignments above them if I don’t pause, take a deep breath or two giving the Holy Spirit time to speak to me.  Once I do that I know to put my family there at the top.  Well, there are many things I am needing to learn and to have many reminders during these days.  But for now, I go into this day surrendered and taking “one moment at a time”.

The Journey Continues: April 28, 2016

Yesterday’s journey had a good deal of enlightenment built into it.  The funeral celebration for my college pastor was wonderful and God orchestrated it into a celebration of a life well lived.  My nephew in the hospital has much going on and is in need of continued prayer for clarity of cause.  I’m going to see him this afternoon as my work is done in the early afternoon.  I was also notified yesterday morning that a teacher I’d hired the last year I was principal of my school lost her husband to a heart attack.  He was 44 years old.  He was a youth pastor at one of our local churches.  They have two boys:  4 and 7.

In our celebrate recovery program last night I was looking for 5 newcomers slated to be there.  None of them showed.  In each case there is a story of great need and yet when the time comes for the need to be addressed with genuine help, they don’t come.  We prayed for them in my group.  The first step to genuine help is truly the most difficult one to take.  How well I know this step.  There are many following the first one that are difficult likewise, but there is nothing like the first one.  All the denial of reality screams in your face when the first step is being taken–“I really don’t need this,”  “I can do this on my own if I just buck up,” “I know I can be stronger tomorrow, just give me one more chance,” and the excuses/denial goes on.  Please pray for the blinders to be removed and the strength to maintain the courage to complete the first step.  Freedom is waiting.

Psalms 84:11 says:  “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  I use to think  a verse like this was talking about the saint walking uprightly.  Well, now I know well that the struggling, mourning soul who thinks there is no hope left, but is willing to take a first step is a splendid example of walking uprightly. God sees the courage of the one taking the step even if their head is sagging.  Pray for the lost ones who need assurance of Christ’s light and shield from all the attacks within.  Grace and Strength are waiting just a step away.

The Journey Continues: April 27, 2016

God is Faithful and He is Good.  My relative in the hospital is in the right place.  He knows this.  Thanks for the prayers which have been prayed for his well-being.

Today is the celebration of the life of Reverend Eichenberger.  He was the pastor of the church I attended my four years in college at Northwest Nazarene College.  He and his wife Betty were a gift from God for me during those years and for all the years subsequent to college.  Mrs. E passed away a few years ago and Rev. E died last Wednesday and his funeral is today at 10:30.  Our quartet is singing.  I truly loved him.  He was a man of much wisdom which he gave away freely and humbly.

On Tuesday evenings I co-lead a step study for our Celebrate Recovery group.  I was awakened last night in the step study to something I want to pass along this morning.  I’ve mentioned more than once about living in the new creation God has given me and given to each of us who have accepted Him into our lives as our Savior and Lord.  A question we were responding to in the study last night was answering:  What, if anything, do we still fear from our past?  I said I still fear homosexuality.  If I’m in a group of men I don’t know, I have this sense of dread that someone’s eyes may be lurking.  An individual in the group said he feared he would still live in the old man thinking.  Instantly when he said this I realized my thinking relating to this question is from the old self.  I thanked him for being God’s tool providing me wisdom that I don’t need to fear this.  I Corinthians 10:13 promises “God will provide a way of escape….”  I don’t need to fret a group of men.  I am God’s kid and I can trust my Father.  Actually, I do trust my Father and I was so glad to be able to put this fear to rest last night–Praise be to God!

The Journey Continues: April 26, 2016

I want to write this connecting to yesterday’s message about my relative.  I took him for the time of prayer with a pastor’s team at our church.  This time was very clarifying for him to see the difference between evil possession vs evil oppression.  He was definitely being oppressed.  Later in the day I took him and his wife to the hospital where I spent much of the night.  He is being diagnosed this morning.  By the time I left him about 2:15 am he was so grateful to know he was staying and help is coming.  I’d ask any of you who are led to be praying for him.

There is certainly a difference between helping God’s plan and creating a plan we want God to bless.  In so many ways I’ve tried to do good work for God throughout my life thinking He would bless it if it were “good”.  But, I’m sure learning a huge gap in my thinking.  God has never needed me to define for Him what is good.  I have needed to learn to look for what God is doing, to see the fruit of God’s work and ask how He’d want me to assist, if He wants me to do so at all.  This can be very muddy at times, but I am personally finding that God does make this clear if I stay in touch with Him throughout the day keeping myself grounded in Him and not what I see might be needing some of “my help”.

One of the big things I know from my personal experience is that help does come from God through us men once we reach out to one/s in our lives we trust.  God wants us to be there for one another, but being there is our step, we have to be reached out to in order to give Godly assistance.  I began to reach out through the help of Celebrate Recovery and the way it structure my reaching out and providing for me a safe means of doing so.  I sure encourage anyone who might need to reach out right now to find that person you trust and reach out to them.  God is waiting to provide His help as we do so.

The Journey Continues: April 25, 2016

“To God be the glory, great things He has done and great our rejoicing through Jesus His Son.”  These words of the old hymn come to mind as I recap the weekend our quartet had in McCall, ID.  All the angst, all the surrendering, all the moments of helplessness are wrapped into God’s work of taking a mess and His making it into His message.  He did this yesterday just as He promises to do as we surrender all to Him.  Throughout the service there were tears of joy, laughter and praise, surrender and forgiveness, revealing and recognition that someone does know and understands.  These are some of the revelations God showed us as we ministered.  A good friend of mine who lives in McCall and grew up in Adrian, OR with me attends the church where we sang.  He did not know my story and hadn’t read my book.  He talked with me at length after we had eaten lunch. Like others who have known me but not known this part of me, he wished he could have done something.  I assured him that God knows and is doing His part now that I am doing my part in surrendering myself to the assignment God has given me.  There are a couple high school girls who were there who live with a foster family attending the church.  These two girls come out of much abuse and were weeping most of the service.  Kathy and I talked at length with them and gave them books.  We told them we would be praying for them and I ask you to do the same.  They want to be on assignment too using their mess as a message of God’s redeeming work for others.

While we were there over the weekend I got a call Saturday afternoon from the wife of a relative here in the valley. My relative was desperately needing prayer.  He said an evil spirit was speaking to him and he could not stand up to it.  His wife was scared and very unsure what to do.  I told her where we were and had her call our pastor.  I prayed over the phone with them and assured them I’d come when we got home Sunday later afternoon.  I went directly to their home as we got home.  I know his story well and the torment he has lived through and with.  I’ve never prayed holding the hands of someone to cast out demons. I hadn’t been aware until the phone call of this evil within tormenting him.  I’ve been in a group that has done this but this part of God’s work is more mysterious to me.  I’ve had prayer in my past to cast out my own demons of unbelief, shame, etc.,  and I know the power and grip of this demonic evil.  I prayed with confidence and fervor for him.  This morning I’m taking him to our church where our pastors will be praying for him at 10:30 am.  I would appreciate your prayers at this time.  I’m also giving him lists of scriptures he can pray which have been given to me by God’s saints in my life.

I am so humbled and blessed to be in this family of God.  There was a time not so long ago when I just wanted to find peace in this family.  However, there is much work to be done for those around us.  As we get healthy God wants us to join Him sharing His health.  I want the rest of my life to be committed to this cause.

The Journey Continues: April 24, 2016

Today God is glorified.  I get to tell the story of His work in my life to a group of people for which I’ve been praying He has already prepared.  Just as I was starting my devotions this morning I received a text message from a friend at home who wanted to tell that that in praying for me she was prompted to tell me that what I share isn’t to highlight me, but Him.  That couldn’t be any better said.  I was actually reading at the very time the text came, a devotional which stated very similarly the same message.  The other most meaningful reminder this morning is that I  don’t tell today’s story of God’s healing work in my life to add value to me.  This very message has been one of the most evil haunts I’ve dealt with in the past few years.  It is a character defect of mine thinking I must redeem my self worth with as much good work as possible.  I also simply enjoy working so it is very easy for me to be tempted to do all that I do for the sake of man’s acclaim.  Today I want it to be abundantly clear that for this moment I know I am a child of God–dearly loved by Him.  I tell our story to focus on His redemptive love and grace.

The more important piece of today for me is for the ones who hear the message and are being prompted to take a step of faith because they are locked in a bondage that needs to be told and surrendered.  I know so well this bondage.  Please join me in praying for them.  God’s love and grace is not selfish for some, but graciously available for all.  To God be all Glory!

The Journey Continues: April 23, 2016

We are in beautiful McCall, Idaho.  All of us in the quartet are staying in a couple condos so we can spend time together allowing our families to become more closely knit.  Most of the time we four guys simply practice and then go on our way.  This time we want to practice but also spend time allowing us to laugh together and learn together.  We are all part of God’s family, but we would like to have a closer relationship within this family of God so our ministry is deeply rooted within God and one another.  In fact, when we prayed over our dinner last night, the one praying asked God to strengthen the family ties within all of us.  I really appreciated that wake up.  I arrived here yesterday afternoon overly concerned about the talk I’ll do tomorrow.  Hearing that prayer reminded me to once again let the talk go.  God will be with me tomorrow when I speak it.  Right now He wants me in the now.

This morning I get to make the waffles for all of us.  I do enjoy fixing waffles for breakfast.  Most of my family is this way.  Our mom often had waffles on Sunday morning.  We would come in from milking and have waffles before heading to church.  Many of my siblings carried this practice forward with our own children.  So now I will do this with our newer family–the quartet family.

Speaking of family–I want those who read this blog to know I consider those who are seeking recovery as my family.  There is a bond found in recovery that knits God’s kids closely together.  There is a security in being together because one can trust the others to understand where you come from when you pull away from the touch or the proximity of another.  It’s not because you don’t want to be with them, it’s just that there is a discomfort in being too close.  God continues to work with me and I know He does the same for each of us.  Lets stay together on this journey of recovery.  I love God’s family and most of all, I love the Father who put us together.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

The Journey Continues: April 22, 2016

Yesterday had no journey entry, but the journey had me on a trail I don’t want to visit again.  I had to be at work yesterday earlier than normal.  I thought it would only be an hour or so and I’d come home and get the blog written a little late.  Well, the morning turned into several hours with the district and by the time I got home I had several things to get done.

As I got into the afternoon the anxiety of this weekend’s testimony was building.  I know this scenario well by now so one would think I could work through it easily.  WRONG.  I momentarily let the “old Earnie” take over in my thoughts thinking the worst of everything for the weekend and wanted to go back into hiding.  Of course, lurking in the hiding place are the old habits too.  By the time I talked to my accountability partner last night, he reminded me to stay in the “now”.  That simple statement was so powerful.  I know this all too well but I wasn’t acting like I knew anything about it.  Even in the serenity prayer it tells us to “take one day at a time–one moment at a time accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.”  The “new Earnie” does know this but I had slipped into the old self’s control momentarily.

I had a tormenting night’s sleep but when I awakened this morning when it was time to get up, the words of the song “I’m His” started going through my head.  In the words of the song it tells me I’ve been adopted into God’s family and He is watching over me.  I’m also the passion of His love and in the grip of His grace.  My first thought wasn’t yesterday’s continuation of anxiety, it was this–I’m HIS.  What a loving God we have with the gift of His Spirit to live within us.

So, am I calm now?  Not really, but the “new Earnie” knows how to let the anxiety of today be the simple reminder to surrender it to the One I serve.  I am on assignment for Him.  This weekend is an opportunity to serve Him so I gladly go into it.

The Journey Continues: April 20, 2016

Sometimes God makes Himself very clear to us and this morning was one of those times.  The last two mornings after I had finished my devotions and writing this blog, I’d settled into working on the testimony I’m giving at the McCall church this coming Sunday.  Of course, I want to do this well and I want it to be written sensitively knowing there’s likely to be all ages present.  So, I want it worded carefully so as we say in Celebrate Recovery, no graphic descriptions.  Working on this always has its side effects.  I tend to stay in that mode of thinking which brings me to a level of anxiety inside that I try to hide and do away with.  I have simply chalked this up to reliving my past and it will pass in time.

Last night was step study night with the guys I meet with for Celebrate Recovery.  We are into the lessons on spiritual inventory prepping for doing the inventory.  The questions being answered are all about what is causing the hurt in your past life so I was once again reliving it.  By the time I got home last night I was quite raw inside.  I was tempted to withdraw yet again which I know is not a good thing.  This morning as I was journaling and asking God what He wanted me to know from Him today, He said he wanted me to remember that He is All Knowing.  He is the one who judges when the time comes.  People are not judging me–I am.  Every time I step into working on my story or reliving events in it I get most anxious about being judged.  However, I had recognized the trigger is my judging myself.  I know why I only told once that the abuse was happening and I know why I never stood up to dad when he was so cruel yet I judge myself for being weak.  God went on to say I need to praise myself for being willing to complete the assignments He’s giving me to share my story.  So, in all humility, I tell you this morning that I told myself–“Good job, you are making God and me proud by doing His assignments so well.”

All this seems like an odd thing to be writing today.  But, I must confess, it does make me feel much stronger.  Thanks for letting me share this with you today.