Building A New Life, Rhythms, and Ministry

There has been an extremely warm welcome from just about everyone we have met here in Lewisburg. “It’s nice to have you back,” “We are glad you are back,” and much more pleasantries. We have definitely learned that we have been missed here in Lewisburg.

I have had the opportunity to meet with a few local pastors and share our vision of church with many more in the narrow time we have been back. I have been encouraged by everyone with the belief that we are supported and the local pastors I have met with are tremendously excited about our vision.

Two days ago, I applied for a male counselor position at the In His Image Pregnancy Resource Center. I decided to swing in to see Mrs. Shirley and hear her heart and vision for the pregnancy center. Thankful for her spending two hours with me without an appointment. By the time we were done, I had a tour of the building, knowledge of the work they do plus some information on its financial backing and board support. She is very excited to have another male counselor helping. I would make a third one. I personally know one of the other male counselors so I am looking forward to training with him and helping men who are unsure what fatherhood may look like.

Yesterday, I went through substitute teacher training. A part-time job substituting will work great while I spend the next few years working on my Bachelors in Divinity (B.Div.). To tell you the truth, it freaks me out to go back to the schools I attended and be a target for disrespectful kids and paper wads. But, in order to make a difference, you have to go where a difference is needed. I should begin work by next week.

It is still weird waking up to a rooster crowing. Carrie and I have spent the last six years living in the middle of a bustling town. Sirens were heard each day, sometimes twice a day. Neighbors no more than six feet away and the back yard neighbor able to see right in to your house. Sitting by the fire on cool nights with the neighbors took literally twenty steps. Speaking over the fence to your neighbor or watching practically every move they made with their children in the yard was an everyday occurrence.

Living in the country will take some getting used to again. We’re not strangers to it but we have been removed from it for some time. I absolutely love hearing the rooster and looking out my window to see the hillside of trees. I walk out my door and I hear the bumbling creek just on the other side of the road. If it had rained recently, it sounds like a gushing water fall. Just yesterday, I had to help my brother-in-law with the cows for a split second. It is a life that not only love but respect.

I’m beginning to create rhythms. These rhythms help me meet people so that I can see where God is moving, find people who accept our mission, and are looking for God’s tangible presence. Most of these rhythms have stemmed from me trying to find wi-fi in this town which is almost an impossibility. McDonald’s and the library have given me the best opportunity.

I had a talk with a local pastor who reminded and encouraged me that building His church is a slow process. It is too easy to want to see progress immediately however we understand that lives are not like microwaved food. Ministry takes time. I’m thankful for those who understand our vision and do not want to discourage us. I have already found a few pastors who are willing to work with us. That is encouraging.

Continue to pray for us as well as the many “small” churches around. Cumulatively, small churches can make a large difference!

Moving Day: Closing the Chapter on Clarksville Tennessee

On November 7th, 2008, Carrie and I signed the papers on our house, went to the house and packed everything we owned in a large uHaul and drove off to start a new chapter of our life in Clarksville, Tn. We weren’t prepared for what we would experience; biggER town, new jobs, friends from all over the world, near church shutdown, a newborn kid, a tattoo, becoming a pastor and a full-time college student. So many “new” things we experienced in the six years being here.

I must admit, I’m not a big fan of Clarksville. I’m a small town boy. Ok, for those who think Clarksville is small, think smaller. No smaller than that. Clarksville was definitely a culture shock for me. However, I do not think I would change a thing if I could. I do believe my wife and I came out on the other side better than we went in. I know this because folks back home have told us we have changed and for the better so it seemed. Folks here have seen huge growth in us since we moved as well. So Clarksville, in all its intricacies, have changed us for the better.

Today we are moving back. We are taking on a new adventure with a renewed vigor. As I type this the boxes are packed, the walls are empty and I am about to go pick up the moving truck. A few friends will be joining us in the parade of boxes. I think back to the night when men from the church were standing at our door waiting on us to arrive so they could usher our belongings into our rental house.

I can’t possibly sum up my emotions or feelings as we prepare to close this chapter and begin a new one. We leave with so many good memories and a few I’d rather not remember, so many new friends I hope to keep in contact with and occasionally see. I can only hope that when Carrie and I drive off there will be some, who years from now, will say they were good people, they made a difference, their legacy has lived on long after they have left this town. 

I know that we will take the love, experiences, memories, and lessons we have learned here back so that we can do some serious damage to the kingdom of Hell. Moving is not a form of leaving but more a form of continuing our work in the Kingdom of God. Everything we have learned and experienced will be utilized to make disciples wherever we go. I’m sure some of our experiences have fell on stony or thorny ground but for the most part, our hearts have been fertile and accepting of the seed that has been planted so that we can continue making an eternal difference in other’s lives.

So this is not a goodbye. This is a celebration to keep it going. The beauty of one day being face to face with God is we will meet again “in the sweet by and by on that beautiful shore.” Remembers that we are not only co-laborers with Jesus but with one another. As we continue eternal work back home, I encourage you (especially if you’re in Clarksville) to continue steadfast preaching and teaching the gospel. Share your faith with others, don’t back down to the spiritual bullies and live a life that is worthy of the gospel.

It’s been real and at times it’s been fun. But now it’s time to move on. If only I can find my keys. I think they got packed up!

How Helping Others Be Successful Makes You Successful: A Quick Memoir of Being A Job Coach

Yesterday I quit my job as a job coach with the state of Tennessee through the Division of Rehabilitation. My job was to help folks with mental or physical disabilities search, interview for and sustain themselves in gainful employment. This has by far been the greatest job I have ever had. It was very rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed my coworkers. I had little to complain about. I was able to apply my talents and abilities. In other words, I was able to be a professional in my vocation.

In November 2011, I was fired from being a pest technician four days after Thanksgiving. I immediately went to the Career Center and inquired in a few jobs that sounded interesting. I had never heard of being a job coach but when the job counselor told me what I would be doing, I saw it as pastoring people outside of the church. I applied for the job and waited. January of 2012, I received a call to come for an interview. An hour and a half later, I was hired.

I learned a few things working with people with disabilities.

  1. People with disabilities are just a capable to succeed as those without.
  2. However, everyone has a disability of sorts, some are just more severe.
  3. People with disabilities are people too
  4. There are more rewarding things in life than money.
  5. Making a difference in someone else’s life makes a difference in your own.
  6. Finding a career utilizing your God given gifts means no longer going to a J.O.B.
  7. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You might actually like it.
  8. Coaching (teaching) people opens doors for your own learning.
  9. Everyone needs help. Don’t be afraid to assist and don’t be afraid to ask.
  10. It truly is more rewarding to give than to receive.

I could think of more but that is enough. I worked with so many different type of disabilities, from homeless to addictions, anger management to TBI, depression to overzealousness, physical limitations to mental limitations, down syndrome to manic depression. It’s amazing what so many people go through. There are so many people hurting and most times are not able to find the help they need to be successful.

I watched a homeless man literally having only the clothes on his back go from the street to having his own home, receiving disability and working twenty hours a week after fifteen years in jail and five on the street.

I watched an alcoholic go from losing everything he had including his wife and house to getting back on his feet and being stable in a job with a new home.

I watch a man with down syndrome find work in a local pizzeria.

I watched a man with no hands learn to drive a fork lift.

I watched a young woman strung out on drugs because she watched her husband get murdered in her front yard living off her son’s disability check find work at a local restaurant.

I watched a young man who had a learning disability pass his test to become a firefighter.

I watched a blind man become a journalist for a local online news source.

I watched a young woman leave jail as a felon and get her drivers license, a house, her G.E.D. and find work all within thirty days.

Sure there are some failures along the way, some clients who I couldn’t help or was non-compliant. But the highlights of this job brings me so much joy. Where I thought I could bring hope to others actually gave myself hope. I learned, more than anything, that in order to be successful, I had to help others be successful. That’s what serving truly is all about.

Presence Always Trumps Purpose

As the weeks and days make their way closer to us moving to Lewisburg and starting a church in the living room of our house, I find myself getting antsy and nervous along with a little fear and anxiety peppered in. This past weekend, we continued working on the house we are moving in to by sanding the floors. We didn’t have time to stay so my wife’s parents finished the floors with a polyurethane. We have very little preparation left before we can move; install counters, fix a leak in the bathroom, touch up painting, tear out and insulate back porch, sheet rock and paint the concrete floor in the back porch and hook up hot water heater. In three weeks, we will be moving in.

During our very brief stay this past weekend, we were more than blessed to have a friend from church, Jonathan, join us in this process of working on the floors. We had never sanded floors and he volunteered his time and effort to drive near two hours away to supervise and teach us on the delicate matters of sanding hardwood floors.

But we really didn’t need him. Honestly. It wasn’t as hard as we thought but having someone there who had just enough experience to provide comfort to our anxiety was more than worth it. As a matter of fact, having him there was exactly what we needed. Not in the sense of his experience of sanding floors but more so in the sense of friendship. In other words, I was more glad to have him there as a friend than as a supervisor.

What I learned more than anything from this experience is there are times when your presence matters to someone not because of your knowledge but because of your friendship. Having Jonathan there was a form of support and camaraderie. And I believe that was what my wife and I needed more than anything.  Simply giving your time to someone for the mere purpose of presence far outweighs purpose. When a person is sick in the hospital they just need someone to be there. When a relationship is broken, sometimes a friend is needed just for presence. When a death in the family happens, sometimes a person just needs your presence. When times are hard sometimes the presence of a friend is most important.

I do believe presence always trumps purpose.

11.2.14 Worship Rewind

Worship Rewind 2013

  • God Is Able – Hillsong
  • This Is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham
  • Here For You – Matt Redman
  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin

What a great day at GraceLife today. I believe God’s presence was with us. We had a wonderful time of worship this morning. I’m going to miss worshiping with my GraceLife Clarksville family.

Tony, my worship leading replacement couldn’t lead today because he perforated his ear somehow. I know he is in a lot of pain. Ear aches are no joke. That is some serious pain to overcome. Pray for him!!! Since he was down, I led worship today. Last week, I handed the reigns over to him and asked him to schedule me to play and maybe sing a song. I didn’t have the intention to lead today but it was a beautiful completion of the circle that I told our drummer had come full. When I came to the church, it was just me on acoustic and a drummer. The original drummer PCSed. (In the Army, that means permanent change of station) So Thomas, who I dubbed backup came on first string and we played for a long time together, just him and I. Today, we got to relive that moment. I believe a fitting end to my ministry at GraceLife.

We began with God Is Able. Great song. With only one guitar, I don’t worry about signature guitar licks. I just play the chord progression. I really like doing that sometimes because it frees me up to really just allow the spirit to flow and go where he wants.

We then sang This Is Amazing Grace. We are in our Sola series and today Pastor Carlo was speaking on Sola Gratia, Grace Alone. So we had to sing about God’s grace or unmerited favor.

Next we sang Here For You. I prefaced this song about not coming to church for all the benefits it provides but coming firstly to worship God. I really felt my hand starting to cramp on this song. I typically do when I play by myself. I keep a death grip on the pick and it tends to cramp before I finish. Gotta learn to quit doing that.

Lastly, of course we had to play Amazing Grace. It’s obligatory when you have a message on grace.

Again, it’s really difficult knowing that we merely have just a few weeks left. But I am equally excited to get back to Lewisburg and do ministry in my hometown. This is a huge transition for my wife and I. I never considered myself a church planter. So this is new for our family. I only pray that I have made an impact in Clarksville that will create a legacy and continue to preach in the hearts of people who knew me here.

Everyone Is Redeemable

Everyone’s life possesses a redeemable quality. It it were not so, God would have given up on us years ago and never sent his son to die for us. We must not see people the way they present themselves today since the sin that rules in us has the effectiveness to define us. However, if we looked upon each other the way God looks upon us, then we would see these redeemable qualities within one another and love others they way they should be loved; with a God-qualifying love.

You and I are no different than those who present their once silent shame now redeemed in a cardboard testimony. I wonder, what would be on your cardboard?

Christianity Is Simple

I love reading Amish Fiction. Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Suzanne Woods Fisher are a few of my favorite authors. One thing I’ve come to realize in myself and others is the allure of living simple or “plain” as they call it. In today’s culture, we are bombarded with so much media, so many activities, and so much stuff that some, including myself, look hard for a reprieve and we find it in the Amish way of life.

There are some who even take a step of faith and plow themselves into the Amish culture thinking that they can just turn a switch and leave all the trappings of this world to others and take on a simple life. Ironically it’s not that simple and more than 90% turn back to the old way of living feeling they can’t do without such amenities such as electricity, cars, internet, cell phones and other gravitational customs of the English lifestyle.

Yet we’re still drawn to the simplistic lifestyle so we start cutting out all the excess fat that weighs down our life. We work through the house throwing all out all the unneeded baggage. We cut out all the extra activities in our life in order to save money and resources. We find ways to repurpose the stuff we previously called junk. All this for the goal of reaching something we desired but couldn’t fully commit to.

The Amish, for some, have created an unattainable dream, one the ensnares us to consider change so that we may reflect it in some degree.

Yet, I can’t find that same aspiration for the Christian lifestyle. Those who long for an Amish way of living do not do so for religious ambition but a less dramatic one. Yet, we Christians wonder why no one wants to be a Christian. Unlike the Amish, we open our church doors and wonder why they are not being flooded. We invite others into our culture and become sensitive when others turn a blind eye.  We tend to believe we have the answer for life yet the answer we provide does not answer the questions being asked. So we stress because people aren’t running to our culture that provides a yoke that is light and not burdensome. It’s, I dare say, simple. But we, Christians, make it complicated.

We put regulations and drawbacks on what Jesus considered fair for all. No one wants the Christian simplicity. It doesn’t provide what others are looking for because we have manipulated it to be more than what God intended. There must be an attendance to the meeting. There must be a strict adherence to law. There must be one way of living. There must be a life of poverty and weakness. There must be rules.

But the only rule I find is to Love God and love others. Yet the church said it’s too simple. We must make it more than that. We can’t have such simplicity in the faith. People want simplicity in a world that is overcome with abstract. Christians have the answer to that desire. Yet we are trying to answer the wrong questions.

The right answer is simply “Follow me!” How do we propagate the Christian culture? By alluding to the life giving and life leading simplicity of Christ.

Christianity really is that simple.

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