Monthly Archives: April 2009

Being A Disappointment…

This probably should be a 2 or 3 parter, but I don’t want to leave people hanging…so I’ll make this one my only blog for the week.

I can pinpoint the day 9 years ago I became a disappointment. I made a choice and it was the wrong one. I got lost into a world of sin. I walked willingly into something I knew was wrong.

It was in Brainerd, MN – I was serving in my first fulltime ministry position after graduating college. It was a good church, a good pastor and good people. I was young, stupid, and full of energy. Sometimes I wonder what it was like for Pastor Boone to work with me…I know it must have been hard.

After being at the church for about 5 months I made an unfortunate discovery. Internet pornography. I was single and living by myself. While at home one evening I was surfing the web (back in the days of dial up) and I clicked on a link that turned out to be a redirect to a porn site.  I turned it off quickly, but my curiosity got the better of me.  I went back to that site.  Over the next few months I became more engrossed in searching for websites that had similar images…after a time I came to see myself as addicted to Porn.  It was a hard realization.

Over the next month I slowly backed myself out of looking at the websites and spent time in prayer trying to break free of the addiction and bondage I had gotten myself into.  I was mostly successful, but knew that I was fooling myself if I believed I could be totally free without help.  I went to my Sr. Pastor and confessed my sin – he responded in grace and love asking what he could do to help.  He was an executive presbyter for the Minnesota District of the Assemblies of God – he helped me get connected with the right people.  We decided it was best if I moved back to Ohio to be close to family.  The Ohio District agreed to oversee my restoration – I was blessed by that decision.  Emerge Ministries is in Ohio and would be the organization that I would be meeting with to work through my issues with Porn.

The Ohio District Council and presbyters were very supportive.  I’ll never forget the presbyter that wept for me in the meeting – he was so broken by the bondage I had walked into.  At the time I didn’t see it as compassion, but as pity – hindsight is a great thing for perspective.  I spent a year meeting with an Emerge psychologist, a Sectional presbyter, and a pastor.  It was helpful and hard at the same time. I met quarterly quarterly with Bro. Crabtree, the Ohio District Superintendent, he was also supportive and encouraging.  It was because of him that I was allowed back into ministry after a year of being in the restoration program.  He argued that with the new guidelines the national office had passed at General Council and with the circumstances that lead up to be coming forward on my own that I deserved it.  He was very gracious.

After being approved to go back into full time ministry it was a very difficult time.  I sent out over 2-dozen resumes…in each packet there was a letter explaining the details of why I stepped out of ministry and the process I walked through to be approved to go back into ministry.  Sometimes I would get a letter of rejection back, most of the time I heard nothing. I had one church that sent everything back.  It was sad and funny at the same time.

I did eventually find a church that would talk to me.  The Pastor there had a heart for people who needed grace – I was certainly one of those people.  Sadly the Pastor who invited me to interview had other issues at his church that wouldn’t allow me to go into ministry there.  Even sadder his desire to bring me in gave his church board ammunition to fire back at him.  They accused him of trying to bring in a pedophile (me) to work with their children.  For clarification there was no child porn or anything remotely related to that subject in my struggles. They pressed the issue so hard that the finally brought it to a congregational vote.  Him wanting to bring me in wasn’t the only issue, but it was part of it.  Fortunately he was not voted out.  This Pastor had enough compassion, grace, and character that he contacted some of his friends telling them they needed to hire me…believe it or not one of them did.  Ironically 2 years later I was working for the Pastor who first showed me grace.

It has been 9 years since I confessed my sin and submitted to the restoration process.  I have been back in full time ministry for almost 7 years.  It has not been the easiest 9 years of my life – it was a struggle to get free of the bondage.  I’ve had to put things in place in my life to help me with accountability -I have happily done so.  I have doubted my call, my commitment, and myself.  I have wrestled with grief and regret.  I went from being supremely confident that God had a great and glorious plan for my life to having no direction back to knowing God has a plan, but having trouble finding it.

Along the way I have gotten many different responses when people find out about my journey.  I’ve never hidden or lied about what happened, I just rarely offer details either.   There are those who respond with disgust, those who respond with pity, those who respond with judgment, those who respond with compassion and love…there’s the whole spectrum of responses.  Just this week I shared my past with a ministry colleague – the look in their eyes said it all.  “How could you? SINNER.”

tattooI actually got a tattoo on my right arm to remind me that I am a sinner “Peccator” is Latin for Sinner (I got it on the 1 year anniversary of being back in ministry) …I need to get some work done on it to add in “saved by grace.”

I don’t share this with you to illicit pity or sympathy – I live with the certainty that while it has been a hard 9 years I have grown immeasurably as a person, Christian, and pastor.  What this experience has done for me overall is break me out of an even greater bondage than the sin of pornography – it has broken me out of a Religious bondage.  The thoughts I had about grace and salvation before lacked depth.  It is harder to understand the fullness of grace until you need it and don’t receive it.  God is always willing to give it – His people aren’t.

I share all this today because I am done feeling condemned by my sins.  Will I forget what I have done?  No.  But I will quit giving Satan a foothold in my life by walking around in guilt and remorse.  Things left in secret are given a power in our life – I will not walk in that fear.  SO no longer will Satan be able to whisper in secret “you know what you did…” 9 Years ago I became a disappointment to man, but God loves me unconditionally.  It is time to shake off the shackles placed on me by others, shackles I have accepted…it is time to dream again and walk with a head held high knowing I have the Spirit of Sonship.  The Father has adopted me – He loves me.  No more will I feel looked down upon by the pious and legalistic.  I will walk as one forgiven.  I will dream as one forgiven.  I will no longer be a disappointment.

FORE!!!

golf_drive I love golf…I’m not a great golfer by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve always loved golf – as much as I like Tiger,  I am not one of the thousands of new players who play because of him.  No, I play because of my Dad.  I’ve always loved my dad and have tried to do things he likes so I can spend time with him.  Golf is on of those things he really enjoys – consequently it became one of the things I really enjoy.

I typically shoot low 90′s – I’ve had a couple of rounds in the 80′s.  I’m better than the national average by a fair amount, but still not great.  My golf swing is an interesting thing, over the years I have learned a lot about myself from how I play golf.  For years my biggest problem was that I could crush the ball…I could hit that thing a country mile.  I remember when I was 21 hitting and sticking a ball on a green at 330 yards and over driving the next green at 340 yards…the two best shots of my life.  And while I can hit the ball a long way – I don’t usually hit it straight. 250 yards out and 50 yards right doesn’t always play real well.

So I’ve learned to make corrections to my swing.  The first thing I had to learn was to not swing as hard as I can every time – there are times when you don’t have to drive the green, like when the hole is anything over 250 yards…  The second thing I had to do is correct my slice – I have to open my stance up, cock my front foot out, get my hips around quicker and bring my left shoulder forward.  If I do all these things I can hit a fairly staight long ball, but if I skip a step then the ball is going somewhere I don’t want it to go…

This past Saturday I played a round with my Dad – I have to say it was a hard day.  And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what in the world was going on with my swing.  I tried all the different foot positions, I tried all sorts of things -nothing was helping.  I was slicing the ball worse than a guy carving turkey…then the 14th hole came.  REVELATION!!  I wasn’t cocking my front shoulder out.  In that moment my problems were solved – I had still played a fairly poor round – but my drive on 14 was beautiful, long and staight!  Then on 15 – staight and longer.  Then on 18 – my prettiest shot of the day – straight down the middle of the fairway 290 yards – oh it was a thing of beauty!

The problem was that I hadn’t played in months, the first round of the year is always the hardest because I have to remember all the things I need to do to correct my problems.  I think we’re all like that – when we don’t focus on the things we need to do to overcome our weaknesses we have a rough round until we remember what we’re doing wrong – epsecially if it’s a situation we don’t come upon very much.  Knowing how to fix a problem is great, but if you fix it and then forget how you fixed it then you’re destined to repeat the problem.  We have to make sure we are continuing to do the things we need to do to drive the ball long and straight.

God said speak to the mountain…not push it.

tatra-mountains-zakopaneWhen you are a type A personality (or fire, lion, red or what ever the dominate style is for the personality profile you took) you a considered driven.  You have something in you that causes you to want to succeed and constantly improve.  You have vision direction – certainty –   sometime to a fault.  I have this type of personality…I push and drive and try by sheer force of will to get things accomplished.

In many endevours it has served me well – I have been successful in many things.  God has blessed me many times over.  When I first started pursuing my wife she turned me down…more than once.  But I decided that I was going to continue to ask her out and continue to be myself…well obviously it worked.  I pressed through the rejection.  When I was told that there was no way to get a Children’s Pastor Retreat approved in SoCal – I did it.  I lined up the speaker – found the retreat center – did the advertising – and had the 1st ever retreat for Children’s minister in my denomination in SoCal.  As I said – my personality of being driven has served me well.  But God’s measure of success is different than man’s

When speaking of Faith – God tells us that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can speak to mountains and they will move.  Speak!  And it will move!  When I come to a mountain I’m already trying to figure out how to go over, around, or under it…rarely does speaking in faith come into my mind.  Now I believe God for my provision and care – but sometimes I have to remind myself that it is not by my strength that difficult times will be overcome.  I can push, pull, fight, and win sometimes.  With God backing me and driving me – I win every time.  I had a fried who at an early age had to go through Drug rehab – for years afterwards her grandfather would tell her how proud he was of her.  She had “pulled herself up by her bootstraps” he would say…each time she would remind him that she didn’t succeed by her own strength – it was through the grace of God.  It was in her own infirmity that she found God.

That’s my prayer – in my weakness and in my strength I would rely on God for all and that at no times does it come from my strength.

Try not to get lost on the way…

Sometimes I forget that I don’t have all the answers. I know it’s shocking, bit is true. I don’t know everything. I don’t even have half the knowledge and wisdom I need to be considered wise.

I read a blog post this week by Jim Wideman. In it he made a comment about how often we try to do things on our own and user our own power. I know I’ve been guilty of that. God has gifted me with many talents and I try my best to use them for His glory. But I get in the way sometimes.

There are times when I become possessd by the suriety that I am right…that I know best. But that doesn’t work out well for me. In many of those times I lose track of what’s important. I end up feeling lost and confused. And I think the main reason that I feel that way is due to the fact I’m following my own road map and have gotten off track from what God’s path for me is. I’ve lost my way because I bought into the belief that it’s my way…when in reality it is God’s way I should be on.

In kids’ church we’ve been talking about stewardship. One of the keys for being a good steward is remembering that it doesn’t belong to us…it all belongs to God. Life is like that – it us all God’s. The struggle comes from fighting against that which God places in front of us. We get lost becuase we move – God is constant, never changing. So if something changes in our relationship with God it has to come from us.