Thursday, January 30, 2014

My sphere of influence

I keep thinking about the people I rub shoulders with every day.
  Do they know Christ?
  What's going on in their lives?
  Can I say something that will make a difference in their day?
  How can I show Christ to them?
  Am I willing to be involved in a relationship with them if that is required?

Being semi-retired, my life looks a lot different.  There is this new thing called "discretionary time".  Don't get me wrong.  The common disclaimer--"I'm busier now than I was when I was working full-time" has crossed my mind more than once.

But only for a moment.  The reality is I no longer work every day and my sixty hour work weeks look more like twenty hour weeks.  That's a lot more time for which to be accountable as I see it.

Not that I need to account for every minute, nor do I need to fill every moment with activity and responsibility.  But I do get to make choices about the use of my time that are new and exciting for me.

So back to the opening paragraph.  These are the questions I've been grappling with now that I am no longer a senior pastor with a reimbursed job description--as it were--that provided a platform for me to do the Lord's work.

I am also being influenced by a book on Discipleship by Jim Putman and the intentionality of it.  God called me to be a disciple and to make disciples, and that calling has not changed as I have moved from clergy (that's a high brow word) to the laity.

Following Bible study today to men approached me about meeting with them individually for coffee. I think God may be opening the doors of opportunity for me once again.

How about your sphere of influence?  Dare to ask the important questions...

Thursday, January 16, 2014


For seventeen years Amador County was my home...and a good one, at that.

I had a great fulfilling job, a wonderful group of friends, a beautiful home, family nearby...and the beauty of the surrounding area--from the towering mountains and snow of Lake Tahoe to the vineyards and rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley.

I have missed my home and all of the memories associated with it.

But recently I have begun to feel at home in San Luis Obispo County.  There are a lot of reasons for that, including, two sons (and their wives), eight grandchildren, the Pacific Ocean, Grace SLO Church, and the general beauty of the area, even though the hills are brown--not green--due to the drought we are experiencing.

I am also slowly building my counseling business, and, recently, began teaching a SS Marriage Seminar and attending a church growth group.  I am getting involved at church and beginning to meet the wonderful people of our new church family.

And, we are making friends; we have discovered that is a challenging process because we have special friendships that we have made in Amador County that we will always hold close to our hearts and treasure--and those friendships may be enough.  But God is leading new people into our lives as well.

We are thankful.

We attended Grace Fellowship Church a few weeks ago and were warmly-received.  We saw my family over the holidays and celebrated the Christmas season together.  We "oohed" and "awed" at the residual fall colors still present in Amador County (the seasons are less conspicuous on the Central Coast).  And I felt a little sad when we headed home.

But I knew...I was heading home.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Pain and Suffering

Three factors, seemingly unrelated, have converged in my life and are giving me pause to reflect at the outset of this new year.

1.  I have been reading WALKING WITH GOD THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING by Tim Keller, one of my favorite authors.  His sensitive and scholarly approach to a  difficult subject have challenged me to carefully rethink how I deal with those I counsel who are experiencing suffering.

2.  Some friends gave Beverly and me two cds with the testimony of Darlene Rose--"I Will Never Leave Thee"--a former missionary who suffered greatly and is now with the Lord.  Her words of courage and confidence literally "blew me away".  I can't think of any other words to accurately describe my response as I listened intently driving home from Northern California after Christmas.

3.  My dear friend, Joel, was diagnosed two days ago with a large brain tumor, probably malignant, and he faces surgery and chemo in the upcoming days.  Joel is married and has two young sons--he is about forty and just beginning a new ministry--and now he is facing, perhaps, the greatest challenge of his young life.  His trust in God is unshaken and we are believing God for His strength, grace and healing in the days ahead.

Pain and suffering are everywhere I look.  In my own life I have had comparatively little of either but in what I have experienced God's grace has been more than enough to get through. The "bonus" is that there are some lessons I have learned in those times that have been life-changing.  I am not sure I would have learned them any other way.

I recommend the book, and I encourage listening to Darlene's vibrant testimony.  I ask you, as well, to join with me in prayer for Joel and his family as they journey through these difficult days.  Most of all, if you're going through a  time of pain and suffering, my prayer is that you will remember--as God is reminding me--that His Son suffered for us, that He understands our suffering.  I pray, too, that you will discover His promised grace and help.  Hebrews 4:16.