Monthly Archives: August 2012

Walking uphill

August has been in intense month.  We’re pushing ahead with fundraising efforts and have sent out close to 200 mailings.  Hillary and I are following up with phone calls while getting another fifty or so packets of information out.  In the midst of fundraising and working my landscaping job, there have been some other events taking up a lot of time and energy.
     1.  Eight showings in six days: This means a lot of cleaning for Hillary and finding a place to take the kids while prospective buyers check out our home.  We continue to wrestle with more aggressively pricing our home to sell versus potentially renting.
     2.  Sickness: Two overlapping cases of hand foot, mouth disease, one cold, and Briana is teething.  Hand foot mouth disease is a virus infection that normally hits children under five with two or three days of fever and approximately a week of red spots on the hands, feet and mouth.  The kids were confined to the home and experienced varying degrees of listlessness and discomfort.  We had a toy cleaning marathon late one night as we tried to disinfect all the things our children play with and generally were very short on sleep.
     3.  A weekend in Providence, RI: We stayed with the family who is willing to open their home to us while we are in Providence.  We had a great time with them, even thought the travel was a little rough on the family.  I gave an update at church Sunday morning and we headed back to CT.
     4.  Vehicles: Our SUV wouldn’t start, so with the help of a passing dog walker I was able to push it out into the street, but failed to jump start it.  The SUV was towed to the mechanic who found a broken wire in battery connection.  It was a simple and fairly cheap repair, for which we were thankful.  The check engine light on the other car, which was just inspected, came on as we drove home from visiting Hillary’s family in NY.  This one also ended up being a minor issue, but it was another stick in the spokes of our slowly moving lives.
     5.  Tragedy:  Early last week I learned that one of my closer friends at work took his life.   I was shocked and still am, to some degree.  We worked closely together last year and maintained the friendship through the winter.  We had gotten to know each other fairly well and two weeks ago, things were coming apart for him.  I was able to speak with him about the gospel over the course of our friendship and attended his funeral today.  It was both beautiful and terribly sad.
    6.  In the midst of this I have found great encouragement in talking with wise Christian friends.  In speaking of walking through hardship, one of them remarked that there are unique blessings as we follow God through the hard places.  If we only do what is easy and self-serving we miss out.  It makes me think of a beautiful oasis found only in the heart of desert.  I don’t know what the oasis will be and I don’t continue merely for the blessing, but the expectation of God’s oasis helps me keep going

Calling – When God says “no” and you do not

In the past year and a half we have heard “no” many times.  The “no” has come in many ways, but ultimately we have heard God’s voice coming through.  When I knew of the possibility of being laid off from my position at church I started filling out job applications.  I remember submitting the first one with both hope and a sense of incredulity that I could be living and serving somewhere else six months down the road.  Since that day there have been many potential futures that we have explored and to each one God has clearly said, “no.”  While there have been the traditional rejections in which I won’t make it to the first round of interviews, there have been opportunities that filled the horizon with a growing sense of certainty.  Yet in all these cases God clearly shut the door.  This was difficult on a variety of levels, but it also gave us a growing sense that when God said, “yes” it would be with similar clarity.

 Fast forward through a year and a half of “no” and we hear “yes” from Trinity in regards to the church planting fellowship.  We are given two weeks to pray it over while they check our references.  We are looking for this booming “YES” from the sky but the affirmation comes in smaller pieces that accumulate.  We were talking about this with the new pastor of our church and he he surprised us in his response.  He said, “it’s not so much that you’re saying, ‘Yes’ to this church planting fellowship, but that you’re not saying “No.”  Hillary and I stopped, looked at him, and then paused to put the statement together.  He went on to explain that so many guys, himself included, had considered church planting and said, “no.”  “For a variety of reasons, most pastors do not feel called to start a new church.  So that fact you are willing to seriously consider this venture is significant.”  I had never thought of calling in this light.  Just by the fact that we weren’t turning from this path at the outset but were intrigued, was an indication that God was at already work, moving behind the scenes.  Again, this was not the booming voice we had hoped to hear but another indication of God’s leading.

Calling: Personality

One of my seminary professors, Phil Douglas, is really into Myers-Briggs.   I had never heard of this type of personality assessment before and was intrigued  when we went through it in class.  I came out as an ENFP and when I read the description, I realized that this was a fairly accurate and very helpful tool.

Fast forward three years, from my first year of seminary and in my final semester I have another class with Dr. Douglas where he states that not only do individuals have certain personality types, but also institutions.  At first this was a little surprising but as I thought about our tendency to join together with people like ourselves, it made more sense.  Dr. Douglas then began to talk about church’s having a primary personality that shapes many aspects of church life.  Based on the personality of the pastor and other leadership, churches have a certain way of doing things and attract people with certain personalities and thus you have an institution with identifiable trends.  He identified four major quadrants on this wheel and the characteristics of leaders and churches from this quadrant.  And here is how it all relates.  Dr. Douglas pointed at the “Intuiting” quadrant (south on a compass) and said “70% of our church planters come from this temperament category.  And I thought, “Oh, that’s where I am.  I wonder…”
While I realize personality tests have inherent limitations there is a lot of thought and research behind this wheel and the conclusions drawn from the data.   Personally, it has been very helpful for me to reflect on who I am, by God’s wise providence, and how he wants me to serve him.  As I’ve thought about the characteristics behind my label of “ENFP,” I see how it fits with starting a new church.  Possibilities, risk, flexibility, people, vision, synthesis, and communication all energize me and make me want to step forward.
When Hillary and I were evaluating what to do next and considering where God was leading us, a friend asked, “Have you considered church planting?”  I talked about my Myers Briggs and willingness to explore the possibility, and here we are.

Calling – half the armor is all you need

God weaves together many strands.  Here are two more pieces that helped lead us to Providence.

Through the past year and a half of transition I’ve come across one section of The Pilgrim’s Progress on multiple occasions.  Christian, the main character in this allegory, is equipped with armor but it only covers his front and not his back.   The only way for him to remain safe is to keep moving forward.  And it is not only safety but victory and life that lie before Christian.  At many points this year we wanted to stop – stop trying to sell our house, stop looking for a job, stop trying to hear God’s voice, stop living “in between,” and much more.  But God kept prodding us, telling us of victory, of life, and of the only course of action – move forward, trusting me.

In my final year of college I was a part time youth director at a newly started church in the area.  The pastor who began and still leads the church is a dear friend who has been an incredible source of encouragement and wisdom.  When I was speaking with him about the possibility of working with Trinity as a church planting fellow, he asked, “Is God calling you to do this?”  I then told him about God’s “Yes”  he then said something along these lines, “You need to move forward.”  I had been telling him of some of the difficulties that lay before us, some of our doubts and fears, and he said, “If this is God’s calling, you need to do whatever you can to move in this direction.  All these other details matter, but ultimately the deciding factor is God’s call.  Follow him.  Take the next step.”  And then, the piece from Pilgrim’s Progress came to mind.  Life, victory, the only course lay ahead.

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