Coaches on the Camino


(borrowed picture of this kid doing the butterfly– his form is better than mine no doubt… read on)


“COME ON BRIAN,” Dillon the lifeguard joyfully yelled, “200 METERS BUTTERFLY!”

“That’s what I need,” I thought, “A coach.”

200 meters would be four laps, not impossible except it feels like it in the fly.

So I swam almost one lap and nearly was dying!

“Only three more to go,” Dillon laughed.

I tried, but realized as I felt more and more like I was drowning not swimming, that this needs to be my goal this year, not this day.  Butterfly is my hardest and most favorite stroke.  It is exhausting.  I cannot keep it up over the distance.  It vigorously uses the whole body.

In life we need coaches.  People who come alongside and yell encouragement.  People who help us “keep going” when we want to quit.

Do you have things that make you want to quit?

Those things are everywhere.

One of the things for me has been empty chairs in worship.  Strange, you know. For there need to be empty seats, stats tell us, for people need space to feel comfortable worshiping.  But still numbers of empty chairs have been my nemesis. It is like a narrative of failure is tied to empty chairs and a narrative of success tied to full ones.

And every week when there are empty chairs, someone will say aloud what I had thought, “Where is everybody?”

Of course — really we all know —  sporting events, emergency situations, illnesses, holidays, good or foul weather, etc all hinder the ability to enter community and get to worship. But really it is not about how many seats are not filled.  What matters is what seats are filled.

Jesus, my Sunday coach, spoke over me one week when I lamented in prayer to Him that there were not many people there, saying, “Child, look at all the leaders that I have raised up!” That got my attention.  I swam stronger that week.

And another week, when I lamented the empty seat factor to another person, they wrote asking what had Jesus been working on in my own life?  Basically saying, “Don’t lament, instead go talk to the coach.”

On January 24th Jesus helped me discover this firsthand.  I came to church to worship not lead that week, and the same number of people were there as other weeks when I have preached.  But it didn’t bother me. In fact, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the power of worship, the message, the connection with people around me who were there.  That’s what mattered, and I left immensely refreshed.

As I experience this Camino preparation year, I am realizing that I am already walking a path with Jesus.  One part of the journey is the healing Jesus my coach wants to work in my heart by getting me to swim the lengths of life ignoring empty chairs and paying attention to full ones.

To you this may seem trivial — “Come on, Shimer!”  But really, one person’s pebble is another’s boulder. And apparently this is one boulder in my own soul my coach, Jesus, is working on.

In life often the stuff that is most challenging to us, the stuff that hurts, the stuff that makes us question our value, or makes us want to quit, is the very core of where God is working.

As we walk this preparation year, I hope you are looking for those places in your own life and listening for your coach to call out and encourage you to press on past the obstacles toward the goal of the healing God has for us.  Life is not about empty chairs, really, but about full ones.




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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