Start Your Own Part 1 (burned ships)

My wife and I have the privilege of presiding over a wonderful expression of community located in the old downtown saint_vaast_la_hougue_1692aarea of a mid sized city in the Northwest.  It is nearly everything that I ever had a vision for in all the years that I have given myself over to visions.  It is rewarding on personal, professional, and spiritual levels. I want to write a book, sell a million copies and spend winters in Hawaii, but I really cannot take credit for any of this.  If anyone had given me instructional steps in order to arrive at this destination I would likely have never followed them.  I am pretty sure that this wonderful place and community that has risen up has been orchestrated, without much help from me, by the loving and creative hand of the living and loving God.

From a young age I had believed I was called by God to be a pastor. Though my younger life did not reflect those beliefs, I carried them in my heart and believed that one day it would just happen.  In my thirties I began to apply myself to become what I thought a pastor looked like.  I was a staff person in a local church, the kind I now like to call a little box with the cross on top. While there, and in my subsequent endeavors as a church planter I had some degree of success. Not, you know, a lot, but enough to convince myself I was doing good.  I took some hits too. Some were unexpected and went deep. A couple of those deep wounds got infected and sickened my soul to the point where I was angry at everything and everyone.  I fell deep into sin, left the ministry, and eventually burned my entire life to the ground.

It has been my experience that the Holy Spirit is opportunistic.  God didn’t cause me to or set me up to sin.  It was my own willingness to agree with the call of sin and the desires of the flesh that led me to the edge of the fire. God knew that I had to come to a point where I perceived I had nothing to lose. I had never been able to choose to make my mind consider all things as lost until that moment in time where by all accounts they were all lost. It never worked for me in concept.  I had tried.  I would try to make myself believe that what I had going for me had no pull or influence over me.  I would have said that it did, but it really didn’t work out so well for me.  It had to become real. At that point everything was on the altar, or at least what little I had left.. Where would I live, what would I do, and how would I earn a living, even who I would have relationship with were now all subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 When Cortez reached the New World he promptly burned his ships. Having no other options his men were well motivated.  I had burned down my life, testimony, and relationships.  No resume, just a pile of ashes. Without a
another option, I was too.
After my fall I was certain that traditional ideas of ministry were no longer options, but my belief in the call and mission of Christ was unchanged. What it took for me was at least the allusion that existing models of doing ministry and church were completely closed off.
 So, in a state where I was still unsure if God was listening, Angie and I prayed. What to do was answered first. I entered barber school. The thought of cutting hair for a living sounded interesting. It also made sense. Without a definite answer as to where we would be going, barbering was portable, and the demand for those services were universal. I was certain that after my fall I would have to go a long ways away in order for God to be able to use me. Even more I was sure I would have to leave in order for me to ever be able to live without the awful sense of guilt and failure and my shame at my public humiliation.
Without even noticing it was happening, God began to use what I was doing simply to continue eating semi regular meals and sleeping indoors most nights.  He began to use me to reach out and touch the creation that He loved so much He gave His only son for them.  Every time I have tried to make it into something I knew about from before the fire things get muddied and messed up.  When I just do what I do and let God do what He will things happen.  Lives change.  And I get to hang out in this wonderful thing that I like to call a missional outpost.  Where the Kingdom of God exists at the edge of the vast frontier of humanity.

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