Sure Hope

apple-store-picture Sitting at the Apple Store because the microphone connected to voice activation had broken.  Actually, it turned out to be a hardware problem with Siri and so the tech, Thomas, said, “I have never seen this before!  We will need to just replace your phone.”

In moments a tech from the backroom brought out the new phone, and Thomas walked me through the most frightening thing: pressing the “erase this phone” command, password and all.  I must have looked what I felt, for he said, “You have a complete backup of your phone on your computer, Brian. When you plug in this phone, just press “restore backup” and you will have all the data restored.”

The process sounded simple.  I walked out with the new phone.  Then I remembered my journal from the camino.  Most of the stories, the experiences and so many honest entries are stored in a journaling app on my phone.  The thought that that might be gone, somehow not saved, brought tears to my eyes, as I walked across the wet parking lot to the car.  Fear.

It is a tricky thing, fear.  It sneaks in from the back of the mind, and has tentacles that stretch fast and effectively affecting breathing, sight, and muscles.  It has a death-grip, fear.  As I walked, it jumped me and whispered: “They will not be there when you look. Oh the app will be there, but all the entries, the stories, and even the changes in you will be gone.  Then everything of your experience will be erased. It never will have happened.”

Of course, logic says, the change in me is there, and cannot be erased, but the funny thing about fear is it bypasses logic.

And it is phenomenal how quickly it happened.  It impacted my emotions. The voice of Jesus slid in alongside the fear, “Child.  Trust Me.  All will be well.”

You would think that hearing God would settle it for me.  I mean really, hello, this is GOD!  But not so quickly. Fear has old ruts and pathways, well-worn, well-trodden in my heart. It knows the system, the trigger-points, the ways to keep me bound, keep me from breathing, keep me trapped.

“Trust me,” I heard again as I brushed away the tears on my cheeks.  I arrived at the car.

“Ok,” I responded to Jesus, still brushing away the tears, “I’m trusting.”

Once at the car, I plugged in the phone to the computer, which I had had with me, and did what Thomas said, “just choose ‘restore backup'”

A message box came up.  “Cannot restore this backup to this iPhone, for the software is too old.  Choose “new phone” and then after that is updated, choose restore.”

“See!” Fear said. “It will be Lost.  See!  I told you.”

I didn’t give in.

I picked up the computer with the still-attached phone, told Zack the dog, who does fear even better than I do, “I’ll be right back,” closed and locked the door and walked back into the store.  Once there, I asked if Thomas could help me again, and the greeter brought me over to him. He was helping someone else, but multi-tasked with me.

I explained my question.

“Oh, that’s simple,” Thomas said, “Let me update the software on the new phone, and then we will restore the backup.”

Relief flooded me.

Thomas didn’t leave me alone, but checked in several times while my phone was restored from backup.  Every time his confidence and presence increased my confidence.  I watched the many red-shirted Apple employees using their hospitality and presence and knowledge to impact and bless the people coming in with every manner of difficulty.  Thomas even noticing my bandaid-repaired charging phone cord plugged into the computer, “Let me get you a new one of those.”

In all this, fear, it appeared, bowed to their care, wisdom and confidence with hope.

img_7720Sitting there, I remembered the remedy to the fear I felt, back on August 17th, as I sat on my flight to Dublin from San Francisco.  Of course, there was this deep-seated excitement, but on the surface, then, this swirling mass of so many, many feelings with fears and critical thoughts paramount.

I felt so diminished. I felt little. And then awareness struck.  I was in touch with that place inside my heart where I am still about five.

I journaled on the plane, writing: “Ah little Brian!!! Where are you?”

A small voice responded: “I’m here.”

And a picture opened up in my mind’s eye: There behind a stand of garbage cans cowered a little boy, aged five. He stepped out a bit, so I could see him covered with sores and dressed in rags.

I ask gently: “What’s going on with you, buddy?”

A n d   h e  S H O U T E D, his arms stiff at his sides: “You are going away and leaving me behind!  AND I don’t think you’re coming back. And I tried to get your attention, but you wouldn’t listen so I began to yell, to say how you’re not man enough and not a good leader and inadequate.” He took a deep breath, and yelled again:  “I was just trying to get your attention!!”

“Phew. You did little guy. You did get my attention. I’m so sorry you felt that way! I love you and would never want you to feel left out. I need you!  Now I understand why I felt my feelings were so messy and unfounded! You were just trying to get my attention.”

“How about you come out from the garbage.  You don’t need to stay there.  Let’s go find Jesus. He will help clean us up. Then we can talk.”

He ran to me. I pick him up, this smelly kid, and walked on this forest path and found Jesus by this pool and waterfall. Little Brian still in my arms, I walked up to him and Jesus hugged us both. I smelled the sweet fragrance of Jesus’ skin and hair in that hug. Fresh. Aromatic. Like the air after a spring rain. Like the freshness of the best incense.  His hug flew through my body. I felt loved. Cherished. And in an instant, Hopeful.

“Jesus. Little Brian and I need your help getting cleaned up.” I said.

Jesus looked down at the small boy in my arms and smiled. “Little child. Come to me.”

Little Brian unlatched from my shoulders, turned and fell sobbing into Jesus’ arms. Jesus kissed his head and then carried him to the waterfall and deep, emerald pool.

I heard Jesus speaking into me as they walked: “My son, I love you. You needn’t believe the lies of the heart. Just bring them to me and I will extinguish them. Come, let’s get washed and renewed.”

img_4372Then Jesus jumped laughing with little Brian in his arms and splashed into the deep, clear, cool water. Air left my lungs at the shock of the temperature. I gasped. I laughed outloud on the plane. And the waters washed away my doubts and fears. Holy Jesus. Washed. Clean.

As they got out little Brian is filled with joy and laughter. I couldn’t fathom the difference. Rags gone, now he’s dressed in a white outfit: Shorts and t-shirt. Little Brian ran to me–

“I get it now. We are ok. I’m going to help you have fun and you’ll take care of me. Right? ”

“Right,” I say and then, there I am, bowing at Jesus’ feet.  Still breathing in His fragrance.  “I love you, Jesus,” I say.


Remembering all this, I sat on the stool in the Apple Store as my phone was being restored.  The message said “another 10 minutes”  for much longer than 10 minutes. And I realized how much a restore is more than just what is happening to my phone, it is the gracious action of a God who is willing to “restore” hope in the middle of a forest called “fear;” it is hope reigning as a surety, no matter the circumstances; it is finding my feet restored onto firm ground, in what looks like a swamp.  Restored.  When the process finished, just like Jesus had said, all was there. And better than even the stories recorded in the phone, the change in me remained.



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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