The victory is remarkable! Last night was a beginning of some work only God can see and do. We had 11 people come to the first night of training. It was rather quiet with everyone polite and willing to share guardedly the beginning of their own story/interest in participating in the training. God is at work and it is obvious the ones He is nudging aren’t yet sure how their part will look. I can see in my head my own version of what next Fall’s groups will look like, how people will be responding to lessons and talking through their own struggles as each lesson helps them tackle the layers of struggle. I can see the victorious faces as bondages are released. I know enough to not try and create my mind’s work, but to only let my mind be what God adjusts as we take all the needed steps to actualize this recovery ministry’s implementation. I do know from last night that there is very passionate interest. I am so humbly pleased to be part of this.
Tonight I meet with our Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader who is replacing my spot so the transition can now happen. The one remaining on the co-leader team will also be there so we can talk through what the new team’s operational responsibilities will look like as they start working together to maintain this tremendous work and grow it as God is leading. I will stay connected but will back away from the dad to day administrative side of it.
God is nudging me to strengthen my team. I Timothy 6:12 has a line in it that says “Fight the good fight of the faith.” Joyce Meyer’s translation of this is that the battlefield of our minds is Satan’s playground and we never win these battles unless we have a spiritual means of gathering in the troops. This is done through confessing the battle when you sense it starting. This looks like having thoughts of doubt, temptations, worry, anxiety, etc. This is exactly what I experienced Monday night in my hotel room. Did I reach out? No, I told you about it yesterday after the fact. I tell you today I want to be a different man the next time it hits like that. I will define my battle plan and who my warriors are. I will then act on it. Pride sure does get in the way of this. I so want to outgrow this need but God continues to reinforce the truth that this is not my battle to fight–it is His and only when I surrender will I be strong. I know all this truth but acting on it is always tougher. I’m so thankful God is a patient God. So, here we go.
Today is a day I’ve looked forward to with much anticipation for a couple months. I’ve dreaded this day and looked forward to it both. Today we begin the training for leading people out of their sexual darkness, bondage, closets, sins done to them and by them. In order to do this we’ve had to face our own and in so doing, God has replaced the bondage with a passion to help others find their own freedom. I’ve known all along that Satan is not a fan of losing bondage–he is the author of it. So, I am wide awake this morning knowing he is active. Last night I fought him over and over. Some of it was in dreams, some of it was in fighting my own memories of abuse, some of it was in temptations and some was in simply wanting to quit all this. However, this morning I am ready to be part of God’s Army and fight. God didn’t allow my past or anyone other’s without an intent to glorify Himself by assisting us to find His intimate love and strength to overcome it and help others by sharing and supporting them.
My day is a hectic one. I’m leaving very soon to work with a district a couple hundred miles from home (I’m already here), finish “early I hope” and head home so I’m on time for tonight’s first training. I ask for prayers from any reader for those participating tonight. I know each one will likely have their own story of battle knowing they are displeasing the one who has kept them so long in their own strife. God is mighty to save but unless we turn to others for prayerful support, we will not know this Might. Please join me in praying and thank you.
Every once in a while the journey gets disrupted. This morning my grandson who now works in Boise for a bank could not get his car out of our driveway due to last night’s 3″ of snow. My 4-wheel drive pickup wouldn’t start so I ended driving him in my car. We left our house at 6:30 am and by 8:00 we were to Meridian. Thank goodness the traffic began to move and he made it to work by 8:20–which is only 20 min’s late. He just started the job a week ago so he didn’t want to look delinquent. I didn’t blame him. I’m wired the same way. So, devotions were disrupted, the blog is being delayed in getting posted, I’m leaving after lunch to drive across the state for work and I need to get the work done this morning for the district I’m meeting with, etc. These disruptions can cause some angst but in reality, I will just surrender them knowing God is in control. I did get a good night’s sleep so complications in the morning are more easily handled after sleeping well and the coffee being done!
I spent most of an hour on the phone last evening with a friend who is working diligently on his sobriety. He and I are learning some common lessons. I think the most important is just how powerful God is and just how patient He is in waiting for us to recognize He wants to use His power if we will finally let go of our meager attempts to work things out on our own. I know that all of us breaking free from bondage have to learn this and many times learn it over and over as the new situations come into our lives. What I do love about our God is that He is always right there waiting for us to let go of control and allow Him to take it. My own daughter told me last night talking about her car purchase that she hated hearing from me–“God has the right car in mind. All of our work ahead of Him will only give us heartburn and frustration.” She said she thanked God for being so good! Right now I am thanking Him also.
Several weeks ago I was blogging here about God keeping me in one place so I could better learn just what He wanted me to know. I’ve been sensing this to be true once again. These past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. Spending time with my beloved sisters in Calif., coming home to the service of a man I loved, and trying to help my daughter through her tough spot have kept me hugely dependent on God’s leading in my life. In each of these situations I knew I was to be taking part but I didn’t know ahead of time what the part would be. I would need to be present and let God do the rest. Yesterday, my daughter got her car. Yes, God did just what He always does–provides the one He had planned. It became available last Thursday night and she was able to drive it home yesterday. She was very happy and I was praising God. It was a good lesson once again about leaving the details to God and letting His timing run the course. This car had the details my daughter hoped to find, much lower miles and much newer than we’d ever hoped to afford.
Kathy left yesterday morning for a funeral and reunion at her home in Wallowa, OR so I had last night to myself. The Left Behind movies were being played on TV so I literally watched 3 of the 4 during the evening. They were a good reminder to be faithful, not after the fact, but faithful out of the Bible’s teaching about trusting and obeying what we know regarding Jesus Christ’s example and work on the Cross for each of us. It would seem so natural for man to see Christ’s work and accept it for them personally. However, we all know how our own selfishness interferes with this decision. I pray that the way I live will help others find their own relationship with Christ by accepting Him into their hearts.
In I Timothy chapter 3 it talks entirely about the qualifications of leaders in Christ’s work. I was reading it this morning and all that Joyce Meyer has to say about this in her life and in her spiritual leadership and growth for herself. Next Tuesday evening we start the leadership training for the ones God is nudging to participate for working with those struggling in an area of sexual brokenness. It was timely to read these characteristics today knowing this is starting in just two days. God is continuously at work and I want to do my part obeying what He wants me to do rather than doing what I think I need to do and asking God to lead it.
Well, the service is over. What a magnificent one it was. God was truly honored and Pastor Jim was also honored as God’s servant to this community. I heard over and over from friends and community members that attended the dinner following the service that Jim was not only their pastor, but he was their friend. He was the first reason they came to church and stayed attending church. God took over in their lives, but God used Jim to bring them to Christ. It was an honor to be part of this time.
The rest of yesterday was spent with my daughter and car shopping. I believe we found the one that is right. There is work I need to do today to get the financial steps taken. I’ve asked God for His leadership in this. My daughter’s previous loan wasn’t paid in full from the insurance so there needs to be some refinancing work done. I’ll see how this works out today.
Last night I was wrung out. I went to bed even before 9. I forget how emotional energy rather than physical energy can drain oneself. Experiencing the service for Pastor Jim and working with my daughter and this car fiasco took it out of me. This morning God has been reminding me of my continued need to surrender each day’s work to Him. He is the one in charge of it and my role is to complete what He gives and trust that He IS in charge. This is a reminder I need daily and several times throughout the day.
In I Timothy today I was reading how God wants us to be leading His work. God makes it clear that He honors this but we are to know that His Work must be lead through surrender. This is in direct opposition to man’s way of leading. I want to stay on the path of learning to trust God’s complete leadership and not just praying that He guide me. I want Him leading me and me obeying fully each day and throughout the day.
In just a few hours one of God’s nicest gifts to man will be honored and celebrated. However, my heart grieves. I got up this morning drained. Yesterday afternoon and evening were mostly spent preparing for the music which will only be half of what is planned for the service. Jim was a lover of music and used it strategically knowing it spoke to people’s hearts when words were not sufficient. He’d then use that open door to help people step into what God was speaking to them about. I went to his viewing ahead of the quartet practice and spent time with Lois, Jim’s wife, and their two children who are adults not much younger than me. Jim’s body was present, but that’s all. God has taken His Own Spirit and spread Himself throughout hundreds and thousands of lives through Jim’s ministry and work. The Spirit of God and Jim was what I felt. Today will hardly do justice to all of this, but what I do know is that God will be Glorified. Whatever Jim did he did it to glorify God and this will not be different today.
As I came to God this morning I didn’t know how to do justice to the part I will have in this service. He immediately reminded me that He knew and He is planning to do just this. My feelings of emptiness are on purpose. He wants me empty so I can be filled with His Purpose rather than what I think should be said when it’s my time to share. So, with that reminder, I am humbled and ready. I’ve surrendered me to God Almighty. There is a well of tears wanting to escape as I write all of this. I loved this man! What is so astounding to me is that I know Jim loved me. He would tell me so even when I was a young man. I wasn’t use to being loved in a Godly way by a man in my early years but Jim used me in God honoring ways and Jim loved me in God honoring ways. This is a legacy I want to pass on in God and Jim’s names.
I can tell I’m home–I’m anxious about work, Pastor Jim’s service, finding the right car for my daughter, and am I doing all of this through God’s leadership or am I trying to take the reins from Him? It does seem several things are coming to a head. My daughter got a call from the rental car company and the insurance is stopping coverage for the rental tomorrow. Seems we must have a car found by then? Secondly, I’m working today with a doctor’s appt. in Boise later in the afternoon yet I need to practice for a duet I’m singing in for the service tomorrow at some point this afternoon. The quartet is already practicing tonight for 4 songs tomorrow. I realized while lying in bed last night that I will be on the other side of the state next Monday night working and I’m to do a final choir practice for a song I have a solo in the following Sunday. I’ll be coming home Tuesday from the work just in time for the recovery ministry training to begin. I do know God’s timing is perfect and I’m to be patient and simply do my part. That would not include becoming anxious and second guessing every step I’m taking. God says to trust Him and this is a good time to do so without all the YIKES!
This morning’s devotion time brought me back to my early days when I would spend so much time with Pastor Jim at our church. I was in my early 20’s. I had just started teaching and he began to use me more in the work of the church. I was teaching a class of 20, 5th and 6th grade boys on Sunday morning and again on Wed. night for what was called CYC–Christian Youth Crusaders. I would lead Sunday morning and Sunday evening singing and often have a solo or a duet even with Jim. I would often go have coffee, lunch, talk about church growth and dream big time with him! How I loved those days.
My devotional reading was entitled: Whom Is God Sending to You? Between reading it and the scripture reading in Thessalonians I was challenged to look at what I’m doing in light of what it does to impact God’s Kingdom Work. I know God is not asking me to be the judge of what I do, but to do what He gives me to do believing, and to do it keeping Him in the front line of all the work whether for the church or for secular education. He will be the One to use it if I am obedient to Him. So, I’m going to move forward through the next days doing just this–believing and obeying. I use to love having these conversations with Pastor Jim to confirm whether I was on track. Now, almost 50 years later, God is wanting these conversations to be with Him.
Today’s journey has us heading back to Idaho. What a wonderful trip this has been. One of the things Kathy and I have done several times with family here is take a day and go to a little town in the mountains named Julian and then go to the Palomar Observatory. We did this yesterday with my two sisters. It was a perfect day. The weather had changed on Monday to being quite chilly. There was frost on the ground yesterday morning and there was some remnants of snow at Julian and on the mountain top. When driving back from Palomar you could see the ocean with the sun glistening on it. We ended the day having dinner with one of Bonnie’s boys and his family at an Iraqi restaurant. Kathy and I thought we had gone back to Yemen for a moment. The food was so similar and good.
I got the details of Pastor Jim’s service last night. It will be a songfest just like many of his Sunday morning services would be. People would complain because he didn’t leave himself very much time for his sermon, but then the next Sunday the service would be very much the same. He loved music and I loved him for this. His sermons were always spot on with God’s Holy Spirit using it to touch an area of need in your heart. This would be true for a high school boy as I was when I first started attending all the way through his life.
As we head home today I thank God for providing this chance to be here. Kathy and I know beyond a shadow of doubt that we were to come and this has been confirmed over and over while here. My mind wants to shift to being home preparing for all the work forthcoming, but I tell it to stop and enjoy this last morning with our California family. I treasure these two sisters. They have been so very important for me personally as I’ve needed to heal from the wounds of abuse. They have been God’s angels for me. It is fun and humbling to return a portion of this love when they are the ones hurting from loss. I do love them. God is so good when we allow Him to be in charge of our every step. I want to be much better at this in my days ahead.
Not only do I not get to this blog routinely on this trip, I find myself unable to express what I’d truly want to. I just talk and listen to my sis Bonnie. She and I say I’m going to write the blog and then we start on a topic and 30-40 minutes later I remember I haven’t written anything.
This trip has been a fun time to build relationships with family members I didn’t have before. I would meet with them but the connections were more through my sisters or an aunt. This time the relationships have begun with them and me. I’ve enjoyed this very much.
Tomorrow Kathy and I will fly home later in the day. My mind is already beginning to plan what is to be happening there when we arrive. The funeral for my dear pastor friend will be on Friday, our family dinner was to also be on Friday so I think it will be delayed. The classes for the sexual brokenness leadership training will be starting the following week and the work I do is also continuing. Most importantly (ha, ha) is the planting of the garden seeds in the greenhouse. Now that it is done I will be planting it when we return. I had thought this weekend will be the perfect time. We will see. For today, we are going to go into the mountains. There was frost on the ground today which is highly unusual here, but the sun is shining brightly so away we go.
Yesterday was a day carved and created by God Himself. I didn’t get a post done just because there were too many interruptions to the morning and then we were off to my nephew’s church which is about 45 minutes away. It is a small, very loving and caring group of people. We were all so glad we went. In the middle of the afternoon we went to my aunt’s home to have the rest of the day with her and my cousins that live close. I knew my one cousin is a counselor but what I didn’t know is that she heads the recovery ministry at their church here in Escondido. It is a mega church of about 5,000 people. She counsels through the church and has headed this work for the past 12 years. My word, that was about all we talked about for 6 hours. It is also the church I think my sis Bonnie will be attending. We wanted to find a church that would be a good home for her and knowing our Aunt and family attend this one, it fits perfectly.
At a little after 6:00 am this morning I had a text message from home saying my dear pastor friend, Jim McMillan, passed away during the night last night. He has been failing rapidly, but I felt like I’d been hit in my gut with the news. If there were a man I’d loved to have had as a dad, it was this one. His wife Lois is my prayer warrior for our ministry work. She said his service will likely be this coming Friday and she wants our quartet to sing for the service along with one other group Jim loved. I know this will be a celebration service, but I also know there were hundreds and thousands of people who will miss this man dearly. He has been God’s instrument in so many ways helping people through their tough spots in life. I’m sure God has a special place already prepared for him.
Someday this earthly journey will end, but until it does, I pray I can be an instrument of peace for God as Pastor Jim has been for me and countless others.