December Nineteenth today, look at that. The anniversary of my ordination to ministry.
The fact that I am ordained has never been a very big deal for me, and the reason I went along with it a long time ago was so that there could be some continuity between churches that I served. Some sense that somewhere along the way there was a larger body who saw and recognized that there was a calling on my life and that they wanted to bless or recognize that.
That small church and conference of churches that prayed over Lauralea and I and ordained me was a blessed place to have those gifts recognized. After the prayers and service, the people in that little church plant got up one after another after another to describe how in some way or another we had impacted their lives by caring for them and showing them Jesus. It was a bit embarrassing, and I think I said when I finally was able to get up, that it had the distinct feeling like one was attending their own funeral.
Many years later, and many needy people, lost hearts, prayers prayed and I an still doing this thing. It's sort of like God called me to this, and I balked a good deal in the first years, but He was clear about it and hasn't stepped in to redirect me to be a Walmart greeter or a shoe salesman. So here I am still at it.
And after twenty eight years the people and the needs are not decreasing.
More people want more of me in more of their homes, in their lives, in their needy situations than ever. A part of me sees that as a blessing or the fruit of my life, but I simply can't keep up. And as I have learned that I am not the messiah, there are those who treat me with the expectations that I am He. That I can solve their problems and turn their kids around or save their marriages or fix their finances with a 20. But I know I can't, and deep down most of them know that too. But it doesn't stop them from pushing for it.
I know that the key to productive and helpful work comes as I am in Christ and He is in me, there are resources for the needs. But the demands keep pushing in. I know what to do, I just need to do it more, in spite of the pushing demands.
The opportunities I have in the work are still vibrant to me, and life-giving.
Honestly the daily and weekly church routine bores me silly. People in the western church get comfortable and safe and demanding and really do have things considerably easy.
But then there will be a hungry soul, a broken heart, a lost spirit who will call or txt for help. Those are the moments I love.
Praying with a young man this week who's very life is in danger because he lives his faith, and seeing two huge mountainous Angels take up positions just behind him on his left and right... Praying with a young lady who is struggling with her sexuality who loves Jesus but can't find a discipleship community who's willing to have her live with them... Even just now getting a txt to pray for a young man who's been making some pretty bad life choices and it seems tonight eternity is in the balance.
These are the stories, the people who keep me coming back to the work again and again. Within reason I'm willing to do the other things just so that I can have the chance to be there when the heart breaks open and God has room to work some miracles. I love that stuff.
The things I remember...
The young mom in stage four cancer who God healed miraculously just because.... The premature baby I held in my hand who never had a chance, and her mom rightly named her Precious... The teen who was addicted to crack, alcohol, smoking and a few other things who was set free of it all when we prayed for her... The middle-aged lady who's heart was absolutely broken by God's persistent love for her and she broke down weeping uncontrollably as God washed her pain away... The pretty lady who would test me by intentionally dressing so provocatively, to see what I would do, and then seeing my response, trusted us as she opened her heart to us... The sixteen year old girl sitting on the floor of the hospital sobbing uncontrollably because she had found her father who had taken his life, so I sat down near her and let her weep... The hardened older construction guy who had had a serious deadly stroke and we prayed and he really came back to life, this time with a tender spirit and a humble heart after God's own... Being called in late one night by a hysterical wife who had been raped and used to pay off her husbands debts... My first funeral in a new church and the provinces premier Roy Romanow and full cabinet came and sat in the front row... Doing a wedding and premarital counselling for one of the leading biker gang guys in the city... Or doing a wedding in a hospital room as the groom was about to die from cancer and he and his ex-wife wanted so desperately to be united before he passed away. He died the next day... Standing over the open grave of their father with two adult sons who began to argue with the undertaker about how much it would cost to maybe add a plywood liner under the casket... Knocking on the broken apartment door of that young single mom with bags of groceries and seeing that she was down to feeding her three year old boy a few leftover crackers, and not eating herself for days... Hearing the church door slam open and hearing stomping and weeping and a lady fairly ran into my office and through tears beg me "What she needed to do to be saved in Jesus?"... The funeral I led and as we drove to the graveyard in the lead car, discovering with the Undertaker that the hole hadn't been dug so we kept driving in circles leading the procession until we had a plan... The wedding I did where the best man was DRUNK and the maid of honour fainted on the way up the aisle... Having a closed rose bud open wide as it was placed in a dead ladies folded hands... The little children who call me pastor or GOD, and are not afraid of me... The guy who made a decision to let God into his life who promptly healed him of his addictions, and they were many.
I suppose I should stop now, there are still so many.
They have shaped me and formed me and these days God has so much more grace for me. He just asks me to ask and he's there in amazing ways.
Oh I still struggle with self doubt and failure, but I don't struggle with doubting Him. I find that as I age with God, there is more and more trust, even though I may not understand or see the way through the fog. I feel like I have seen God and His work. There are no doubts like there may have been in my early years. People who say they doubt because they just don't see Him are usually looking the wrong direction, because truthfully they don't want to see him. For to see Him as he is would force them to face the truth, that He exists and that He loves them desperately.
Oh how we fight that sweet surrender, that giving in to God. We fight it because it requires a certain vulnerability on our part. Submission. And for people who have been screwed over again and again, vulnerable submission isn't something that comes easily. Even to a God who is love.
So the busyness will go on because there are more and more hungry hearts out there who want to be challenged by a God who is bigger than them. And they will need help and love with skin on.
So here's to another 28 years, and may I learn to do it better, with grace and always in Christ.