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.

The Journey Continues: April 19, 2016

I find it very interesting in that as the journey continues, the one/s on the journey may continue, but they are in continuous change.  By change I am talking about growing.  When we are young everyone sees us by the physical growth we achieve.  When you haven’t seen a friend or relative for some months/years, the first thing out of their mouth is something like, “My, haven’t you grown.”   In our later years the growth is all about the invisible maturity God is wanting us to experience and achieve.

There were three things that happened yesterday that brought home to me this thing about growing .  First, a friend stopped by as I was working out in the yard.  They wanted to tell me about their thoughts on the TV interview done last Friday.  Even though it had seemed to go ok in their eyes, the message was too incomplete in how to help a victim of child abuse.  I needed to tell more about addressing abuse.  They were aware of the time restrictions, but….  The 2nd and 3rd things happened as I got to choir practice last night for our church.  A new attendee to the choir was present as I arrived.  He had been a student of mine 30+ years ago.  I welcomed him and he said he was a tenor so he sat by me during practice.  He complimented the gentleman who had sung in church the day before during communion.   I hate true confessions, but I had a jolt of jealousy when I heard the compliment.  I’m not a “jealous” person, but I do have my moments.  The third thing happened as choir was ending.  The director asked the one doing devotions to pray for our quartet as we sing this weekend in McCall and to pray for me as I give my testimony.  When she said this I had that initial response to “flee”.  The person sitting by me (the newcomer to choir who had been a student of mine) likely didn’t know anything about his old principal having “a testimony”.  Of course I didn’t physically get up and depart, but I use to emotionally check out at this point.  However, I heard the voice in my head say, “Earnie, it is time to stay.  Accept support and others comments if they give any.  Stay in the present.”

I tell you all of this because this is a major way God is growing me currently as I’m on my journey.  At the end of our prayer time I thanked the newcomer for joining us and we shook hands.  I didn’t bolt to the exit door as I would have done any other time.  God is wanting us to grow into His likeness.  I do want my remaining years to look a whole lot more like Him.

The Journey Continues: April 18, 2016

Yesterday was a busy Sunday with church and attending a class on intercessory prayer.  After church we had our monthly Celebrate Recovery Leadership meeting which usually takes a couple hours because we do a dinner, provide some training and take care of the business at hand.  In all of this I had a couple of tremendous wake-ups to more that God is wanting to teach me.

This started in the intercessory prayer class where Luke 4:1&2, 14 were read.  It says that Christ was led into the wilderness where Satan tempted him.  After 40 days of this and fasting, Christ came out of this experience empowered by the Holy Spirit.  I was greatly struck by this transition from being led to being empowered.  We have all gone through trials and temptations but our obedience to following Christ’s leadership leads to a stronger empowerment by the Holy Spirit. This was my first awakening.  The second one came during the training time in our CR meeting.  Our training was about The Serenity Prayer.  We were listening to a CD created by John Baker, founder of the CR Ministry.  He used Matthew 5:13-16 to show that “You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable.  If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world?….”  Our testimony (personal story) is salt to the world around us.  It tells what Christ has done to take our mess and make it a meaningful message for others.  This was the second awakening.

Neither of these awakenings were new information, but the timing of them yesterday made their message very pertinent.  Our quartet is singing this weekend for a church in McCall, ID where I will be giving my testimony as part of the service.  I’ve stewed over what I should and should not be saying.  All of this yesterday simply freed me to trust the Holy Spirit to lead me in His message to share.  After all, our testimony is the story of what Christ has done to transform our lives.  I need to stop trying to control the extent of what Christ wants done and be fully on assignment for Him.