Let Me Work

two-guys-walking

On Tuesday evenings a couple times a month a small group and I meet together as I am teaching them the process of learning and telling stories. The weekly assignment is to tell someone the story, or one of the stories, we have learned over the time we have been together. Attendance varies but basically about 6 of us have continued to tell and share stories.

I have had many experiences telling stories in public with people on busses, in grocery stores, airplanes, in car rental agencies, etc by just asking if they would be open to hearing a story. But still, in my hometown, it has been a challenge for me sometimes. I’ve been hesitant to interrupt someone’s day. I have found myself actually thinking I knew they didn’t have space for anything. Amazing how arrogant my wiring can be!

But then there’s one of my class members, a woman in her 70s, named Jan. She’s one of God’s good gifts into my life, and has caught on to this means of planting seed like it is the best thing since sliced bread. Week by week she has outrun me in storytelling. Joshua at Rite Aid heard about his namesake, the little lady in the Post Office line, the man in the Dr’s office, the man in front of Winco. Time and again she has told a story and asked the one question she has learned so far: “What does that story say to you today?”

Rather than celebrating how God is growing her boldness, I’ve felt guilty believing I was failing God somehow. I’ve felt ashamed that I did not measure up to what the Lord wanted of me. But then on Sunday, February 14th Jesus had a chat with me. Here’s what I received,

“You were stressed yesterday about interrupting people. What if you rather viewed this as not in interruption but as engagement for Me. You give people the option of listening, then just let Me work. As it is neither of us has much chance, for you decide for others what they feel. Truly you don’t need to do this. Truly.”

Jesus is so out for change and freedom and has a heart for everyone. This word was true. I did narrate in my head what I thought might be going on for others. Again, I knew this storytelling business was not about me, anyway, it was and is about God and his immense love for people.

So this morning I was at the pool, finished my swim and shower and was in the dressing room area. Dave, an older guy I have told a couple stories to previously, was in there getting dressed too. The Holy Spirit whispered, “Ask him if he would like his Bible Story for today.” There were two other guys in there as well.

So, I went up and said: “So, Dave, you ready for your Bible story today?”

Knowing he views himself as an agnostic, I didn’t expect him to welcome a story. But instead, he kind of grunted,

“Well, what is it?”

That’s all the encouragement I needed. I told the story of Peter and John going to the temple to pray when the man, lame from birth, whom we are later told was over 40 years old, is healed. When the man leaped to his feet and began walking, leaping and praising God, the man across the dressing room from us, overhearing this story, laughed out loud.

Dave said, “Wow. That’s faith!” And he was done, got up and walked around to a stall. But I turned to the man who had laughed and said,

“Have you ever heard that story before?”

“Nah, never” he said. “Our pastor tells a joke every week from the pulpit but never heard that one!”

I responded: “Well, that story comes right out of the Bible. You can look it up in Acts chapter 3.”

“Really?” he said, “I’m going to go home and do that.”

We chatted a few more minutes before I had to go.

This pre-Camino path I’m walking, can help people engage with God in a living, real way. Like Jesus said, “You give people the option then let me work.”

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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