IMG_5370 (1)When I flew to Santa Barbara the first weekend in October 2015 to preach at a Prayer and Healing Retreat held at St. Mark UMC, I thought I was just going to preach. Certainly I was going to be back at the church who sponsored and prayed for Karen and I, as I entered ordained ministry, but I thought I was just going to preach. I had no idea what God had planned for me.

The surprise blessings of the trip all began with a simple lunch.

Our good friend Tirzah R. and I met for lunch one day. Before we had sat down at our table her encouragements of me began, and with them I began to catch a glimpse at God’s grand design.

“Brian, I remember standing at Iwo Jima Monument and you saying,

“Tirzah, I have this funny feeling, like God is letting me know that I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life. I don’t know where this is going to lead me.”

“Brian, I can still see where we were standing. I can remember saying, Brian you follow wherever God is leading you.”

“You and Karen had come as chaperones on that tour that year. It was 1983. My fourth year of leading the Historic Study Tour! Next year will be my 37thyear!”

“You were nervous about being with that room full of boys, but I told you, you would do fine. In fact you told me you had planned a bible study for them and asked me if I thought that would be okay. “Certainly!”

“Do you remember John G from your room?”

I didn’t recall anything of this trip. At this point I began to remember that I had forgotten that this historic tour fell right in the middle of the season of my call into ministry. Right prior to Jimmy Gibson’s sermon! We had been gone 10 days. What a thing to be able to do! And how God had woven that into my calling!

“Well, I ran into John about 10 years after the historic study tour and he had had a tough time after 8th grade. High school had been filled with drugs and rebellion. But he had returned to Christ in college. It was after college I ran into him. He was exiting Macy’s and I was just entering. I had looked up, for this man was exiting who was a big guy and I recognized John. “John G? Is that you?” And he had looked back at me and said, “Mrs R_ you still remember me?”

“Oh John, I would never forget you.”

“Then John had told me how he had fallen away from the Lord but had returned. And he said why.”

“’Mrs R – It was that historic tour, my experience there and that man who was in our room. That was what brought me back to Jesus.’”

“You see Brian, there are going to be all sorts of people in heaven who will walk up to you and say, ‘Because of you, I am here.’”

I was astounded. Staggered, really. Tears brimmed my eyes.

“But the story does not stop there. You see I led one of my 4th grade trips to Sacramento years later and was going up the aisle of the bus meeting all the children and came to this young boy who looked really familiar.

“And what is your name, I asked?”

“Caleb G—“ he said as clear as can be.

“Caleb G–? Your daddy is not by any chance named John, is he?”

“Well, my daddy is in heaven,” he replied, “but this is my mom.”

“I greeted the woman sitting next to this boy and said, ‘So John has died?’”

She said, “Yes,” she said, “You see, he had returned to the Lord because of the historic study tour that you led, but one day on the way to work on his motorcycle he was in an accident and killed.”

The impact of a life. We don’t know all the impact we may have, but this was a glimpse, a slice into one place my life had mattered, impacted another. This glimpse blessed my heart. And God began to show me He had plans for this weekend I had not even imagined!

We talked on and on about how God was moving in Karen and my children’s lives, and Tirzah took notes, “so I can pray more clearly,” she said.

Tirzah will be 80 in January and will again be leading the Historic Study Tours beginning then through March in 2016, about 9 groups. Oh to be that vital, that alive, that vibrant serving You one day at a time in a way that is impacting people in profound ways. How many other “Johns” are there on these tours. Not “made disciples” as we typically use the word, but still reached and impacted, brought back to YOU, because of 10 days with Tirzah.

(to be continued…)

About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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