I want to be known as a husband to Lauralea. A dad to my kids, papa to my grandchildren and just a guy who followed Jesus.
I've been helping churches get healthier for a long time, and usually that's about praying and staying a long time in the same place.
It was while I was washing up this morning when the thoughts started randomly going though my mind. "It's Sunday again" I thought, and then images of the different churches I'd served at started rumbling though my cranium.
The churches I went to as a part of a ministry group for college. The small churches, the large ones, the ones with twelve at a service and an old out of tune piano, and the large ones with hundreds and hundreds of people and lighting guys and timing guys.
Memories flooded my brain from the first church we were lay ministers at there in Southern Ontario in a large Mennonite church where the second language was english and the families were big. To the church we served in Winnipeg for ten years and the families we loved there and the services held in a High School for many years and then a move to an old restaurant where we would meet and worship God and serve the community. Then on to Prince Albert and the people who were so wounded and meeting God in that wonderful space where God would show up week after week and challenge us that we could be whole if we wanted and that he would do it, and he did. To the rural life here in The Field as we learned another rhythm to life and how that rhythm effected church life as well.
Snapshots of these memories ran through my spirit there as I was washing, and I realized that was a lot of Sundays and a lot of places where Jesus had asked me to serve. And I thought about the things I go through before I ever get up in front of people, about how my relationship is with God and what He needs to do in me before I ever get up in front of people. The prayers I've prayed, the requests for the right words, for cleansing so I could speak from a right place. The calls for strength when I couldn't do it myself or when I felt lousy or lost or unable. The cries for patience and for love for those who would sit in judgement of me that day. The prayer from my deep desire that God might visit each person present there that morning and that he would engage each one with healing and life and love...
And I was becoming overwhelmed there with the water running over me at what my Sundays have been like for, how many years? And my head began the math. Hmm five years here, then ten and another ten, plus three, then there were the Sundays at college and the different churches, and 32 years. Really, thirty two years I've been doing this on Sundays? That's ridiculous really.
One part of me was like wow, that's seriously a long time dude. I caught a hint of pride there in that thought. Am I that stubborn that I just don't give up? That I haven't been ground down to a fine dust yet and blown away by the winds of the day?
I remembered the difficult days. The days when my spirit was sick and off and wanted to be anywhere else. The times when I didn't want to continue in ministry and I'd call out to God for a little help and he would be there. I realized that in spite of my pride and selfishness and stubbornness, God's been there. That even in seasons of tiredness and oppression and failure, God's been there. He's been the common theme throughout it all. It was humbling, and good.
I finished washing up and got dressed and headed to the church to pray the prayers afresh this morning as I do each week and before each service. Prayers of submission and personal review. Prayers of confession and contrition, of forgiveness and repentance. Prayers seeking God's presence and work in me and this group of people this morning.
In my prayers I remembered that I do this before each service, each ministry opportunity, and that is the greatest blessing to me. Because of my role I keep short accounts with God. I have to or else I run the risk of ministering from my own place and not God's place. If I was to serve from my place, in my strength and wisdom, I would soon run empty and the quality of grace would be strained beyond its usefulness. "But thank God, He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume."
For all I sometimes hate it, this work has helped God make me into the man I am. I am grateful for that and I hope I can finish well.