Prepare the Way

IMG_1757Part of the journey of this year is preparation — not only the actual preparation of buying supplies, coordinating events and speakers, and planning the budget– but more so, and perhaps in a larger sense, the preparation is of the heart, of my own heart, and of the heart of the congregation as I am planning this journey. In many ways, this has been the message God has continued to speak to me over the past months.

Six months ago I met with our Lay Leader Susan Brehmer and she said, “You know, Brian, the more important work will happen between now and when you depart.”  Exactly.

Then at my accountability group meeting one of my brothers said, “Brian, I think you need to plan in space, time to reflect, to prepare the way for your own heart.”  He went on to say that a way needed to be made “IN” me not just “FOR” me.  Point taken.

I was speaking with my coach, and she said, even though I had not told her of these other conversations, “Sounds like ‘space’ might be your word for the next weeks. The need to make space in your life and schedule.” Right.

Last night I was sitting at dinner and describing the need of a friend to slow down, and our youngest daughter, Gabrielle, 24, said, “Um, Dad, perhaps you ought to be thinking about that ‘slowing down bit’ for yourself too.”

Seriously, God must think I am hard of hearing.  And indeed, I am.  I listen only with my head often, and sometimes not even that.  I just keep rushing, pushing, stretching, and God says, “Stop.”

So, yesterday, my car quit working.  Only temporarily, but it was a reminder.

I am so dependent upon my car to get me places quickly, then I can stack appointments with people easily, with me driving madly between them.  This small setback got me walking today some 6 miles.  It was great.  Walking slows me down immediately. It gave me thinking time. And it gave me a chance to reflect upon the need for space in my life, time to reflect, time to prepare the heart, time to prepare myself spiritually for this time of refreshment in the fall.

So, today I made the decision to cut down on the hours I work each week and take more space.  I’m cutting them back to 40.  That will be a huge shift for I stretch the hours out.  But if I am to find space, and if I am really to reflect and truly prepare my heart, it’s a necessity.  And 40 — it’s a decent biblical number.  Moses was 40 when he first tried to save Israel.  That didn’t go well. He returned at 80 under God’s direction. He spent 40 days on Mt Sinai. And returned for another 40.  Israel wandered 40 years in wilderness. Elijah journeyed 40 days traveling to the Mountain of God. Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert.  Perhaps that number of hours alone can work my heart.

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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