Rise Above the Clouds

A while back a friend of mine, Mike, and I got on the phone.

Mike and I have a weekly phone conversation on Wednesday mornings. He is a pastor in my denomination and lives across the nation in Virginia. We have been friends for 16 years.

When we started talking that particular Wednesday and he asked how I was doing, I was not expecting to, but I began to sob. That makes it hard to talk. Thankfully we talk on FaceTime so he could see me and wait. Pain sometimes just needs to be expressed.

I told him how that previous Sunday I was preaching on “wearing the Armor of God,” from Ephesians 6.  It is a great passage (check it out) and I had done all I knew to do to wear it.

But that Sunday I felt like I was in the middle of an immense battle.  It was as if a group of soldiers armed with AK47’s stood around me and was firing rounds of bullets into me. Every bullet had a title, a phrase, a statement and they were all negative.  I was under this barrage of language and was fighting to continue. After the first worship service, I sent texts to just Mike and another friend asking for prayer.  “SOS The battle is intense, please pray,” I wrote.

What I could have done, but didn’t, was to stop preaching and tell the congregation what was going on for me.  I could have said, “Guys, I’m the one needing prayer today.”  Instead, I soldiered on.

When I told the congregation about my experience, on another week, they totally called out to let them pray. And since that week one member has steadfastly prayed daily for me to wear my helmet of salvation to protect my mind.

Even though, I knew I was hearing lies that first Sunday, every word felt true.

Warfare is real and hard to manage.  Sometimes all we can do is stand, stand in the truth of what God says of us, stand and declare the truth. Like the new song, You Say, by Laura Daigle proclaims.

There were other disappointments crowding my thinking that Wednesday — the canceling of a workshop I was hosting, the numbers in attendance, issues in life, etc. Ever happen that things just get stacked up inside?

I remember years ago when our kids were young, my wife and I got practiced asking one question when one of the girls (we have four daughters) would come with some issue, complaint, or crisis.

After we listened to the presenting issue, we’d respond, “Wow. Sounds big.” Or whatever was a response that acknowledged that we had heard them, then we would ask, “Is there anything else?”

And often the initial response would be, “No…” and then after a moment, the daughter would say, “Well, there’s this…”

And another torrent of anger or tears would accompany this fresh tale.

And again we would respond, and ask the same question again. Eventually layer by layer, we would arrive at the core issue, this issue often felt miles from all the other complaints, but was the real, rock bottom, core issue that warranted a solution or sometimes just grief and acknowledgment. They’d realize all the other issues were covering this thing and feel ever so much better at discovering it.

Even with all the stuff I shared that day, there was a single underlying message that felt true: you are a failure. That was it. Even typing it today feels ridiculous, for today it bears no weight. The enemy of our souls does not get very creative in the lies we hear. They usually fall into one of a few categories, depending upon our life experience, either we are not enough or we are failures, losers, etc.  All are rooted in shame.

Talking with Mike that Wednesday morning was incredibly cleansing.

Sometimes we just need to see another human face and bear our souls. Oftentimes our own narratives are easily defeated through such honesty. It was like through that conversation I had climbed above the clouds. It took me back to another experience.

Months back I was flying back to Portland from Boise and as soon as the plane had risen above the clouds, as I was looking out the window, when Jesus began to speak:

“You just looked out the window and saw the clouds beneath you and yet you are surrounded by blue skies.  See that?  That’s a physical picture of this life. But the cloud cover can be individual, personal, and come with words and phrases attached. And those blue skies, those are found only in Me.”

He continued,

“You need to remember — as oft as you can — that there is sunshine always. Recently you’ve not given yourself the freedom to see it.”

That day the message was that the push I was subjecting myself to was like always exhaling and never taking a breath. I needed to breathe to rise above the clouds, I needed to play, to rest, to trust, and to simply be. That day the Lord ended saying — “Remember what I have said:  return to my Word.  I will free you. I have battled for you.  I love you.”

This other day, when talking with Mike, the same need of rising above the clouds, was achieved through the presence and gift of a caring, listening friend.

When things are tough, reach out, step away, talk to someone, declare the truth, take a break, breathe, rest, just do whatever it takes, so you can rise above the clouds.

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.
This entry was posted in camino, discouragement, Encouragement, Faith, Fellowship, follow, Friendship, God speaks, God with us, hope, Jesus, Joy, light, Presence, Provision, Steps, Thanksgiving, Trust and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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