Tag Archives: journey

The Footsteps I Follow

enter at own riskI feel the need to apologize for my recent posts. They seem to all be very internal “me” focused musings. But the reality is, that’s the season I’m in. I have tried to use this blog as a place for honest musings and challenges regarding faith and discipleship. At times I have addressed issues within the church – both local and denominational; and at other times I have written about more individual, but hopefully universal subjects. Right now I’m in a season of self-reflection and its unlikely it will change any time soon.

So, I could apologize, but it might seem disingenuous as I once again delve into self-reflection or very personal moments. Therefore, I will simply let this first bit of today’s post stand as a checkpoint of sorts. Continue reading if you will, but you’ve been warned.

I recently let all of our church know that I would be taking a 3-month sabbatical beginning January 1, 2014. I have come to realize that I need to regain some spiritual footing in order to serve God’s purpose well in the years ahead. That’s a difficult feat to accomplish while managing and leading the day-to-day life of the church. My time away is not a means of getting away from the church in order to be away from the church, it is simply time to be more deeply connected to God for the work ahead. It may be too bold of me to equate this time to that of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, but still I do relate it to that. In some ways, those are the footsteps I follow.

camino pic 1One of my hopes as I plan this time away is to make an ancient pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It is otherwise known as The Way of Saint James. I first learned of this pilgrimage through the movie “The Way,” which piqued my interest in this 500 mile journey. Yes, I said 500 miles. The journey begins near the border of France and Spain and winds across northern/central Spain to the Cathedral of St. James. It takes about a month or so to make the journey. It is a pilgrimage that has been made by many peoples in the last 800 years. And I hope to add my name to the list.

The pilgrimage was historically made by Christian pilgrims who wanted to make their way to the place where ancient tradition says the bones of St. James are interred. To be in close proximity to these ancient relics was thought to bring a special blessing of God to the pilgrim who was willing to make such a journey. These days many people see the journey as more significant than the destination. They see the journey as the means to the greater blessing of God – and I am one of those.

My hope for the journey is to give myself undeniable time with God. By that I mean that I will have nothing else to occupy my thoughts or my spirit. Sure, for a couple of three days I might be consumed by other thoughts and challenges left behind, but eventually I will just have to get into a deep lasting conversation with God. There is no activity to capture my interest, no group to interact with (save the other pilgrims I see along the way), and no TV or Facebook to occupy my attention. There should be some significant time of reflection and spiritual conversation.

And that’s why I’m planning this as part of my sabbatical. I want to be intentional about digging down deeper with God. And I know that it won’t happen so easily among the everyday things that already distract me so (and I am NOT referring to church stuff – just common, ordinary, everyday stuff). You see, this time is not being planned as an escape from church or life or anything else. I was given good advice one time – it is always better to run TOWARD something than to run FROM something. So, I’m choosing to run toward God, to run deeper into a life as a servant of the King of Kings.

As I make my way I follow the footsteps of many pilgrims who have gone before me. I follow the footsteps of many faithful people who sought a deeper connection with God. I follow the spiritual footsteps of Jesus as I leave what is known for a time away to connect with God. And then, when I have completed the pilgrimage, I hope to walk more faithfully either on the road I am currently traveling or on a new path to which God calls me.

Of course, it all begins with that first step. As for what happens then? Well, that remains to be known and experienced. I simply thank God for the chance to know Him more in this ancient way.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

Stumble by faith…

So, the biblical saying is – “walk by faith and not by sight.” And, as I said on Facebook last week, I get it. I just wish my eyesight wasn’t so good.

I know what God says in the Word – don’t focus on what is seen but on what is unseen. I think about how many people say, “everything happens for a reason,” and I shout out loud even if I am by myself – “NOOOOO! It didn’t necessarily happen for a reason, but in all things God will work for our good!” That’s a faith statement, not a sight statement. If I can know that God works in all things for my good, then there is nothing to fear, no issue or problem that can’t be redirected for good. It means that no matter what I see happening, God is still there and working.

I get it. Walking by faith means trusting that God is there and God will move and God will manage things – even if I can’t.

Yeah, I get it, mostly. Well, at least a little. The truth is, I don’t always live into what I know. I find myself stumbling by faith more than walking. Sometimes I feel like I blew out my spiritual knee or cramped up or got spiritually winded and I’m not walking so great. Other times I begin to walk by faith only to suddenly look around and begin to stumble. I still have faith, but I’m not able to stay upright. Sounds like the story of Peter walking on the water (click here to read the story).

Here’s the good news for me: I don’t have to be the best faith walker, I just have to keep trying. I don’t have to be perfect in my faith, I just have to keep practicing my faith. I might stumble. I might even fall. But I can get back up. And if you know that story about Peter walking on the water you know Jesus reached out and helped him when he stumbled in his faith walk across the water. Jesus does that for me as well.

So, I will walk by faith when my legs are strong and I will stumble by faith when my legs feel shaky. But in all things and at all times, God will work for my good and the good of others. When I am not so sure-footed, I can trust that Jesus will be there to reach out a hand to me. And so I can say, thanks be to God.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

The Benefits of a Spiritual Alignment

Have you ever ridden in a car where the wheels were not aligned properly? The car shakes and vibrates and gets harder and harder to control. When the alignment is off you always feel like you’re fighting the steering wheel trying to make your way down the road. When the wheels of a car are not aligned you have the problem of one front wheel trying to go in a different direction from the rest of the car. To fix the problem you need a front-end alignment.

I have come to realize that one of the main struggles a church can have is their alignment is off. Not a front-end alignment like you have in a car, but a spiritual alignment. The spiritual alignment of a church is all about being engaged with God and serving God’s purpose. We may be a good church (like the front tire is a good tire) and we may do things that are supposed to be done by a church (like the front tire going around and around on the ground), but we may be trying to go in a different direction than God is trying to take us. Is the spirit of our church aligned with the Spirit of God? Is our ultimate purpose in line with what God is calling us to do, and, are we being who God is calling us to be?

One reason I have come to believe in this idea is that I have seen what happens when a person and a church align their lives with God’s purpose for them. I can tell the story of my friend Pam who called me about a year ago to talk about a new ministry our church might take on. She wanted to make blankets for people in the hospital or in nursing homes. I told her I thought it was a great idea, and if she was willing to take on the role of leading that group the church would support her. On this past Sunday evening a group of about 20 people came together to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Blankets & Blessings ministry team. They now crochet blankets to give to terminally ill and hospice patients. To date they have made 132 blankets and touched as may families with a blessing. Pam stood before her team and gave a testimony to how God has pushed her along the way in this ministry, but she has no doubt this was her purpose in God’s work – to engage in this ministry. Pam felt her journey get stronger and more stable when she aligned herself with God.

I can also tell you the story of our church – Asbury United Methodist Church in Pasadena, Texas. Asbury has long been a good church worshiping God and seeking to love well. The church has been traveling in the right direction, but maybe not as fully or intentionally aligned with God’s purpose as we could have been. In the past few years the people of Asbury have become more intentional in seeking God’s purpose for the church – seeking to discern and know God’s vision and mission. And now we seem to be moving faster and more effectively. We have seen more people coming to visit. More families getting connected. More ministry growing up out of the heart and passions of the people – like Pam.

The reality is, this is not something we have made happen. We can’t point to a program or some great effort on our part that has made this growth and spiritual blossoming happen. We simply have been more intentional about aligning ourselves with God – we have engaged in a more purposeful “spiritual alignment” with God and the journey has become more than we could have ever imagined.

I pray that others will know such joy.

Holy high five to you, Mike