Seriously God, What just happened?

These are stories from my life where I followed God’s leading with something and the outcome left me wondering… Seriously God, What just happened?

Life Interrupted

I love it when a plan comes together!  You know the feeling.  When you pour your time, energy, resources, heart and soul into something hoping it all comes together. And when it finally does it is such a good feeling.  You had a hunch at the beginning of it all but when the end comes you realize it was all worth it.

Then, there is the other feeling.  When someone or something interrupts your plans.  A circumstance out of your control, something you didn’t plan for or, even worse is when someone deliberately messes with your idea of how things should be.  Sometimes they can be big plans sometime they can be small.  Either way it can be extremely frustrating.  Why?  Why do we get so bothered by life.

I had just sat down in the plane.  I was heading to Texas to speak at a training for young missionaries.  Our church was going through the Community Bible Experience.  It was really cool, but I was behind.  As one of the pastors at the church, I was feeling pretty guilty for being behind.  This was my opportunity to catch up.  A two-hour plane flight down, and some free time while I was down there.  This was going to be a perfect time for me to get caught up and relieve myself of my guilt.

Then it happened.  A young man sat down next to me.  He was a bit of a talker.  I had just gotten the Community Bible Experience Bible out and was just about to put my headphones in.  He was really excited but he had just had one of the best skiing times in his life.  I didn’t want to be rude and listened to him and shared with him in his joy.  I even shared my own times of riding a snowboard in fresh deep powder to show I really knew where he was coming from.  Then the question came.  “So, What do you do?”

“I’m a youth pastor,” I said.

“Wow, didn’t see that coming,” he said.

I actually chuckled and asked,  “Well, what do you think I would do?”  I was interested to find out his response.

“I don’t know he said, but I didn’t see that coming,” he said.  “That’s cool though.”

I wasn’t sure if I was glad I didn’t fit the mold of a pastor or if I should’ve been bothered.  Anyway, our conversation took a bit of a turn over the next two hour flight, as he talked about who he used to go to church and how his mom and him had talked about going back.  He also shared how he had read parts of the Bible before but found it confusing.  He had a desire to start again but didn’t know where to start.

Then that nudge came.  That quiet little voice inside my head.  The one that I know I wouldn’t think this up myself.  “Give him the Bible.”  Ohhhhh, you have got to be kidding me!  I am behind!  I am one of the pastors!  I need to catch up!  How am I supposed to be a good leader if I am behind!

As those thoughts quickly raced through my head I realized there was no point in fight that battle.  I would eventually loose as I always do.

So, I told this young man, “Look I have this Bible that is really cool.  They organized the entire new testament in chronological order so it reads more like a story.  It would be a really great place to start. and you can understand more easily the story that God has written.”

“Wow, that is pretty cool!” he said.

“So here is the deal,” I said, “I’m going to give you my copy, but you need to promise me you read it.”

“Deal!” he said, “I will read it.”

I love it when HIS plan comes together.  I’ve realized I don’t mind so much when my life gets interrupted.  God has a way of making it a whole lot more interesting than I would have ever planned. Yes, sometimes things get really hard and I don’t like it initially.  But, I need to ask myself, “Do I trust in HIS sovereignty or do I trust in my self?”

After all, “ In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

 

Remarkable Things

“They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.'” (Luke 5:26 NIV)

This reminded me of an incredible moment when I was filled with awe because I was a part of something remarkable.

I was in the auto parts store I had been in so many times. The young man behind the counter was always very friendly and helpful. He remembered my name and greeted me each time I came in. That day he had shared he was possibly going to be moving on and getting his own store. It was then I felt the nudge. It was that quiet voice I had heard before and it whispered to me once again. “Take him out to lunch”. I tired to write it off, but the nudging wouldn’t go away. I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation he was having with another customer so I tried to leave going unnoticed, but that nudging and quiet voice would not quit. So I gave in. I turned around as I was at the door to leave, walked back and said, “He Ryan, we should grab a lunch sometime, my treat, before you head out of here.” His response surprised me. I was thinking to myself, how awkward is this? What if he says no? What is he thinks I am just weird? All the reasons went across my mind to try and get out of this, but his response, “Sure man, that would be great” was a good surprise. We exchanged numbers and I told him I would text him to set up a time. I walked away thinking, Ok that wasn’t all that hard.

Later that day I had texted him to set up a time to meet. My schedule was pretty full so we had to schedule over a week out on a Thursday. On Wednesday (still a week and a day from our scheduled meeting) my lunch appointment cancelled. Ryan came to mind so I called him to see if he was free. He was so we met up at a local pizza place to grab lunch.

At first it was small talk and then he started to tell me about some of his life and what was going on. He knew I was a youth pastor so maybe he felt safe. Ryan has a girlfriend and they had a child together. He desperately wants to do the right thing but feels his girlfriend’s mom has turned her against him. He wants to be a good father and wants to be a good husband. I believe him. He seems to desperately be trying to do all the right things, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out. Soon in our conversation I felt that nudge again and that still small voice. “Tell him that you have been thinking about him and praying for him and that I have put him on your heart.” One of two things are going on here. I am either schizophrenic or God is really speaking here. I have a brief argument in my mind of all the reasons why saying this is a bad idea, but it won’t go away. So I try my best to preface it so it doesn’t sound super crazy and weird. “Ryan, look this may sound a bit crazy, and… I usually don’t do this. But I believe and have learned that when God is asking me to do something I really need to listen. He wants you to know that he has placed you on my heart and I have been thinking about you and praying for you.”

The next thing that happened blew me away. I never expected anything close to this. The expression on his face was one of complete and utter shock. Like he had seen a ghost. He said, “That is crazy”. I said, “I know”. He replied, “No you don’t understand Tony. I have not prayed to God since I was 5 years old. I had given up on God completely. Last night I was at my end with all of this. I didn’t know what else to do. So I cried out. God help me. If you are real, if you are really out there show me a sign, something, anything.”

And we were filled with awe, because God had done something remarkable!

I don’t believe it was coincidence that my lunch meeting cancelled the day after Ryan cried out to God.

God is always working and doing remarkable things. The question is are we too busy for them? Are we listening closely for His still small voice? Are we ignoring that voice? Are we shrugging it off? Are we afraid? What holds us back?

I know one thing. I want to be filled with awe! I want to see more remarkable things!

How will you be filled with awe?

When I Was a Cable Guy, I Discovered True Joy

Two months from getting married I discovered the job I was hoping to get was not going to happen. I had this whole plan worked out. I was going to work at my college for a couple of years so then I could get my masters degree for free. Sixteen years later and I am “masterless”. I know that is probably not a word. So, my brother-in-law had just got this job as a supervisor for a cable company and he offered me a job as one of his installers. I know what you are all thinking, “This guy is crazy! You never take a job working for a family member and on top of that, a cable guy?” Almost straight out of the movies.

I went to “cable guy school” to get my certificate as an installer and complete my pole-climbing training. The pole-climbing thing was actually pretty awesome, once I got over my fear of heights. I really did not have a choice in the matter because I just got married and had nothing else lined up. One of the guys in my class actually did not make it. The thought of it alone can freak you out. The only thing suspending you in the air is two metal spikes that go into the pole only about a half-inch.

I met a lot of interesting people while I was installing cable service and disconnecting service for those who did not pay their bill. Probably the most interesting situation I came across was in a very low income part of town. Most of the time, as you can imagine, that is where our disconnections happened, but this one was actually an install. I pull up, grab a cable box and all my tools to do the job, not really thinking much about where I am.

As I begin my work I begin to feel that something is just not right about this situation. Not in a scary sort of way but in a more… depressing way. I was becoming acutely aware of the living situation of the people I was serving. I had seen plenty of unkept houses before. Some people just don’t like to clean or organize, but this, this, was very different. It was not about cleanliness, it was about the well-fare and unhealthy living environment. I am sure it had never been vacuumed, mopped, or swept. There were numerous kids running around who probably had not had a bath in weeks and clothes on that were just as bad. Who knows when the last time was that they had a decent meal? There was a hole in one of the exterior walls about the size of one of those large foursquare balls.

I could not believe that people would do that. Drop $80 on and install for cable and not even feed their kids, fix the hole in the wall, or something else. The least they could have done was waited for one of our free install offers. I actually began to get angry about the situation.  Everything inside me wanted to just walk out, not do the job, and tell them to fix the whole in the wall, buy some clothes, buy food and clean up their life.  Instead I had to do my job and I left dumbfounded. “God, why do people do that?” I asked. I was so angry and broken inside at the same time.

But, you know what I learned? What is the difference between them and that huge house that I was just at?

You can have everything, but still have nothing.  You can have nothing and want everything.

Or better yet, what is the difference between them and me or between you and them?

We all try to fill that hole in our home and in our hearts with joys other than the ultimate joy, God’s joy. Their’s was just out in the open. Ours we hide it, or justify it. We miss the abundant life Jesus came to give us because we allow the cares of this world to distract us away from the deep unconditional love the Father has waiting for us.

Jesus said, “As the Father has love me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my Father’s commands, you will remain in HIS love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11 Emphasis mine)

HIS LOVE = COMPLETE JOY!

Our place in this world is not defined by the job we do.  It is not defined by how much we accomplish.  It is even not defined by how much we do for God.  We must remember that there is nothing we can do to earn grace.  But what about the Father’s commands?  Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God completely with all we have.  Our place in this world is simply this… Remain in HIS Love.  In that love we find true Joy and contentment.  And like the prophet Jeremiah if we try to keep God’s word, his wonders, and his love to ourselves we will grow weary of holding it in.  “Indeed I cannot!”  It will burn inside you like a fire deep in your bones.  Once we experience the true joy that comes from God alone we share the burden of Christ to give the most life-giving message of hope the world will ever know.