Saturday, July 25, 2015

Moving with God

I'm starting to write this in Cokato at 5:45 on Saturday morning. I might publish this now and then add on later -- I can feel that I'm not as awake and raring to go as I thought I would be, even though it is a full hour later than when I usually get up during the week. My plan for the day was, and so far it's working out that way, that I'd just wake up whenever I did without an alarm and then stay up until I wanted to. Then I'll enjoy the luxury of going back to bed.

Life sure had changed, in a really good way, since my last Sunday at Crossroads (on June 7). Ali, Mark, Tom, Changeu, Ron, Andy, Joe and I started our bus operator training the next day. All 8 of us passed our tests and are working our split shifts, driving during morning and evening rush hours. I've been staying at mom and dad's and Toni has been transitioning her business too.

This week we accepted an offer on our house and signed the purchase agreement. This coming week the house will be inspected. If that goes well, there are a few other details (including an appraisal) to be done and we'll close -- in early September. That means we'll need to have another place to live by September 1.

Last night Toni and I sent in a rental application for a house. The house we're considering is too big, and the monthly rent is too much for us to pay -- so we are going to be on the lookout for others to share the house with us. It's a split level home with a door between the levels. We would need to share the kitchen and laundry with the others, plus, of course, the yard and some storage areas. Both Toni and I look on that as a positive. We have been the most invigorated and happy when we're connected with others instead of completely independent.
If you know of folks who could help pay rent and who would enjoy living in a house instead of an apartment (probably in the Roseville area or nearby), let's connect!

The place we're looking at is at the corner of County Road D and Evelyn Street in Roseville, close to Northwestern ("the University of Northwestern") and Bethel University.


Message us or email or call with questions. And pray that we'll be open to just what the Lord wants to do with our living situation. Thanks!
By the time Toni and I are moved to whatever place the Lord provides I'll have worked for Metro Transit for almost the required 90 days that it takes to qualify for health insurance through that employer. We've been paying for our own since 2011 so that will be a help financially. Because I'm working for them just part time, I'll need to pay part of that cost. It will amount to less than half, however, of what we're paying now.

This week I received an unexpected email from someone who stumbled upon this blog. He invited Toni and I to come to northeast Minneapolis to look at a place he has for rent. Toni and I decided that the place he has is smaller than what we're looking for, but the connection that the Lord provided with this man of deep Christian faith may lead to some kind of ministry opportunity. We'll see.

It's time now to go back to bed. Perhaps I'll write more later. One thing I know I need to do sometime soon is to update my main website and some other aspects of my online presence to reflect the new reality of my life.

Much love to you all.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Uptown Update

For the last 4 weeks or so I've been staying, mostly, with my parents in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. I've gotten home to Cokato on a few weekends and we had time at Toni's parents; then last Saturday we were in the Taylors Falls area, but I've been here with mom and dad most nights during the week.

It's been super convenient for me and I've been able to spend a little extra time with mom and dad. Tonight dad and I got out for a walk; the picture here is from July 7--another time we were out together.

Dad turned 89 on Friday. For his birthday we showed a few of the ~1,500 slides he took from the 1950s to 80s We were able to show them on mom & dad's television since my sisters and brother went in together on the cost of having them digitized by Pastor Eric Hulstrand and his Memory Saverz business. Priceless.

I've been on the job as a "part time bus operator" with Metro Transit for four days -- four days that is, after the 5+ weeks of full time training. Today, between my morning and afternoon shifts, I started doing some looking for a second part time job, even applying for one. I'm hoping to do something either directly or indirectly ministry related. I have thought about volunteering, but getting a little more income will be important since the PT bus operator position pays better than some jobs but not really enough to live on. I'm sure I'll write more about that in the days to come.

For now, I'm thankful for this place to stay -- a place that is only a few miles from the Heywood Garage where I'm headquartered for my bus driving. Toni and I will be getting ready to make more permanent housing arrangements sometime in August, but for now the "uptown" life is fine.

I'd write more, but I'm tired and morning comes early. My morning shift technically begins at 6:10 AM but I want to get there a half hour early at the latest. Tomorrow we "pick" our work for the next calendar quarter--sometime in August I'll begin driving new routes. You'll probably hear about that soon.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wanted: My Next Missional Community

Toni sometimes calls me "Lone Ranger." She has only started to do that in the last few months. At some point she set her phone so the Lone Ranger theme song plays when I call. "...Dadala dadala dadala dadala da da. Dadala dadala dadala da da. Dadala dadala dadala da da. Dadalaaaa dadala da da..."

I do feel sort of "lone-ranger-ish" these days. Why? It's not because I'm alone. The masked man wasn't alone either. He always had Tonto by his side. But, like that "masked man" (see below for more about him), I've lost my connection with what some might call my "missional community."

During all the years I served as a pastor it was the "missional community" aspect of my life and work I liked best. There was always a sense of Holy Spirit led partnership as I worked and prayed alongside men and women who were dedicated, together, to bless youth and children, to help the poor, to befriend the elderly and intervene on behalf of those in dange--all in Jesus' name. God often pushed us toward excellence together--and we often came to God--together in prayer--because we knew we were not, as the Lone Ranger was said to be, "fabulous" individuals. God worked among us and that was always a sweet thing.

My most recent missional community was formed in and around the people of Crossroads Community Church. Now that I'm not serving there anymore as a pastor, now that God has called me to a new venture, I'm sort of "missional community-less." (This is true even though the Lord has given me opportunities to continue to serve in the DC area a time or two since June 8.)

Like the Lone Ranger I'm not clearly and obviously connected right now with a purposeful group that knows one Lord and Savior together.

My work environment does have a good purpose. Many of the people I'm getting to know are "fabulous individuals." Some have let me know of their personal faith in Jesus. But we're not a Christ-centered organization and we won't be praying together--at least not as a whole group. Metro Transit is famously diverse.

I am praying that the Lord will grant me, soon, an opportunity to once again join with other believers in common mission. Just what that will be I do not yet know. Beginning on Wednesday I'll be working a split shift and there will be an opportunity to look for a place to serve. Also, as Toni and I get ready to move to the Twin Cities, I'm praying that the Lord will show us, together, where He desires us to connect spiritually. Perhaps the church we become a part of will be a place where we can have a sense of missional community together.

Pray for me please -- and pray for us. And let us know in what way we can pray with you and for you. And if you're aware of an organization or a church that would be good for me or us to connect with, let us know. Thanks.

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Who was the Lone Ranger?
He was character known as developed in a 1930s radio show and later, in the 1950s and 60s, on television. The Lone Ranger drama (really a melodrama!) was set in the mid or late 1800s, back in the days when the United States was expanding west into Texas and neighboring territories. The Lone Ranger was imagined to have been part of the Texas Rangers, "an organization ... developed to combat the evil forces of the time." But then that organization disappeared (they were lured into an ambush and slaughtered) and the one surviving ranger continued the work.

The Lone Ranger wasn't alone. Tonto was with him and he was constantly working with and leading others. But no one except Tonto really knew him. No one else knew his real name or his history. That wasn't because he wanted to be mysterious. He only hid his identity and wore a mask because he was afraid that he'd be killed if the gang that slaughtered the other Rangers found out who and where he was.

Here's the pilot for the show. Enjoy!

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Friday, July 10, 2015

TGIF

data from 2014
I'm home in Cokato after another week of training. This week we* learned to drive 62 foot long articulated buses and practiced the routes we'll serve customers on beginning July 15. Next week we'll get some advanced training on Monday and Tuesday from one of a well known bus "roadeo" king, Jack Berner. He's promised to challenge Andy and me even more than we have been already. I think that will be good because precision driving and careful operation of these huge vehicles can be a matter of life or death.

Anyway, I'm very glad to be home.


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*"We..." that is, the four trainees from our class of eight that were assigned to the Heywood garage. Two of us, Andy and I, are being trained by the same garage instructor, Jason Berner. He's a great teacher! (He'll be on vacation next week, that's why Andy & I will be with his Jason's dad. Another garage instructor is together with the other two, Ron & Joe.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

First Pick

Written Tuesday, 11:00 PM

I "picked my work" today. That' little phrase wouldn't have made any sense to me until I got acquainted with Metro Transit. Bus operators (a.k.a. drivers), even rookies like me, are given a choice of routes. I was the last to pick. I had three time cards to choose from - I picked one with a morning trip from Smetana Road in Hopkins to downtown Minneapolis and two afternoon runs -- one from downtown Mpls to Maplewood and another from downtown Mpls (again) to Wayzata. I'll begin driving those trips one week from tomorrow.

All of the trips that will be a part of my daily "duty" will be driven in 62 foot long articulated buses. After our several hour long orientation to the Heywood* garage, an instructor took us out in an "artic" so we could see how they work. The four of us from our class who are assigned to FTH* all took our turn driving, learning how to make right and left turns in what is now the third kind of bus we've driven during our training.

Here's a photo from this afternoon.

This particular "pick" (the morning and afternoon pieces of the routes I'll be driving) will last about 3 weeks. It just so happens that Metro Transit's quarterly schedule of duty assignments means that our "pick" will end in early August. Then we'll "pick" again, in order of seniority. I'm part time, so the choices I have are limited to those that are listed for part time.

Today was the first time we picked our work - but, in our group of four trainees, I was the last to pick my work. I was glad to be last because I believe, in some way that I can't fully understand, that God is in control of all of this. I play my part, and I don't always hang back (I leaped up when our instructor asked who would be first to drive the artic!) but for some reason I thought I should, in some way, leave the pick in God's hands.

My first trip will take me to the Hopkins neighborhood where my son Jon and his wife Breanna live with their daughter (my granddaughter) Lydia. That will be in the early morning. Then I'll have my "spread" - about 7 hours I think it will be - from about 8 AM until after 3 PM. Then I'll do the Maplewood trip, across from Minneapolis to St. Paul and beyond on Highway 94, south a bit on 494 to the area of the Maplewood Theater. Then, after deadheading back to downtown Mpls, I'll drive that trip to Wayzata. I rode that route a few times back in 2011 when I was taking a psychology class at North Central.

I'm trusting that God will bless this pick, even though the thought of being out on my own in that gigantic articulated bus gives me the willies. I appreciate your continued prayers for me and for all who work in transit.

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*"Heywood" and "FTH" are short for the "Fred T. Heywood garage" located close to downtown, just north-west of Target Field. Click here for a map. I picked that garage last week... but really there was no choice since I was the last to pick. I am the lowest in seniority in this class, simply because I was the last one to get my physical and drug test taken care of in May. Having to pick last pushed me into my new experience with "artics" (pronounced as in the first part of the word "articulated"). The other choice that was open to our class, the "Nicollet" garage, does not have those frighteningly long buses.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Hearing God in the Family

Written July 5 - 

It's a Sunday morning at the cabin. For many years our habit here as a family was to go into town on Sunday mornings to the church that my father-in-law had pastored way back in the late '50s and early 60s. Today we're gathering as a family on the deck and in a while we will join together in a time of worship right here.

When I got up today I was thinking about what we might successfully be open to what the Lord wants to say to us during our worship time. I'm sure we'll have a great time singing and praising Jesus together. We have an abundance of musicians in this group. But how will we hear God's voice together? We're not planning on having anyone preach.

So far this morning two little Bible verses have presented themselves to me as perhaps most relevant to our time together.
  • The first is from Mark 6. Jesus in this section has gone to his home town but there many of the people there were offended by him. He then says, in verse 4, that a prophet is not generally honored among his relatives. 
  • And the second is from Hebrews 13:7 -- in that verse the Lord also speaks to us about honor. The context here has been about honoring and respecting the government and those in authority--but verse 7 moves us to honoring--and loving--everyone.
How can we honor the Word that God is speaking to us here at the cabin this morning during our family worship time when it is our very own relatives that will be speaking that Word to us? How can we be open to hearing the Lord speak to us through those we know?

Written July 6 - 
We did have a sweet worship time yesterday morning. It was capped off by Toni's dad Dick Dahlin sharing The Words of Institution and the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper with us, right there on the cabin deck. We joined in prayers of thanks and prayers of intercession. God's Love and God's Word blended together in a way that allowed freedom, vulnerability and prayer to flow. They flowed even though we don't all see everything in identical ways. And the questions I asked above stay open, and other questions arose. Still, I will trust God to be active through His Word and in ways I cannot fully understand. I would do it again.

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By the way, I'm home in Cokato now. Today our class finished our time at the Metro Transit Instruction Center. In the morning I'll head in to the Fred T. Heywood garage otherwise known as FTH or "Heywood." I was assigned to that garage last week. Tomorrow we'll be oriented to garage operations and will "pick" the work (routes) that we'll be trained to drive. Lots more to learn.

Here in Cokato I was able to do some pastoral work in the last few hours. I also mowed the lawn. It's good to be home.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Testing Phase Done

This part written very early Wednesday morning:
Yesterday was a good day on the bus. I'm beginning to think I will be able to do this job. It's remarkable how much a person can learn in three - four short weeks. We're in the middle of our fourth week of our Metro Transit training. As I drove route 17A (the shortest version of 17 - from the main Minneapolis post office to the uptown area) yesterday I noticed how my confidence is building. I am able to control that big wide beast and squeeze it between obstacles without breaking a sweat every time. I still go slow but that's wise -- it's required on the Nicollet Mall (10 mph speed limit) and is good otherwise too, at least until I pass my in-service test tomorrow. I'm quite surprised at my progress.
So now it's Friday evening. I'm relaxing with family up at Toni's parents' place in northern Wisconsin. I did pass the in-service test yesterday morning and I was greatly relieved. I am praising God, thankful that the testing phase is over.

On Monday our class will have some specialized training about how to safely navigate transit corridors (Marquette and Second Avenues in downtown Minneapolis and on Washington Avenue at the University of Minnesota).

Beginning on Tuesday and continuing through Monday July 13, we'll undergo what's known as "garage level" training. The eight guys in our class were each assigned to one of the five Metro Transit garages. Based on the various garages need for drivers, four of us, myself included, were assigned to the "Fred T. Heywood" garage on North Seventh Street and Olson Highway (just north of Target Field) and four others to the "Nicollet" garage in south Minneapolis. At "garage level" training we'll learn to drive the particular routes that we'll be assigned to for our first months of work. Our first day "on the job" will be Tuesday, July 14.

Thanks to a great training program, I will be able to do this job. It will be a part time split shift position during the morning and afternoon rush hours. They guarantee us 30 hours of work a week -- we'll actually get paid for a bit more -- we receive 45 minutes of "spread pay" to compensate us for the double commute. Once I'm on that split schedule I will be looking for another kind of service or ministry that I can do between the shifts.* One possible avenue of service did occur to me as I was doing my in-service training this week. I'll share more about that in the days to come.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I hope you'll find encouragement here. There are lots of things that you can do, probably many things that are beyond what you think you are capable of. If you are fearful of what you think you may not be able to do, if you're tempted, as I have been, to just stop before trying, or before trying again, I'd like to invite you to contact me so we can pray together. Or just go straight to the Lord yourself.

I have no doubt that I could not have done any of this without the help of God. But with his help, I can. So can you.
"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
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*Previous to deciding to take a bus operator position with Metro Transit I had looked into various full time positions in human services and ministry. See what I wrote this spring, such as one written May 3 ("Spring Forward") for a bit more about that journey.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Will Not Be Afraid

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't rely on your own understanding. His ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts are higher than yours. Remember that He has saved you many times in the past and trust that He will do the same in whatever He calls you do to. Remember Him in your heart and give Him credit with your words. He will make a way for you to succeed in the things He desires for you to do." (based on Proverbs 3:5-6)


As I am anticipating the tests of this coming week I am tempted to be worried and anxious. As I spent quiet time with Jesus a moment ago, He gave me his assurance, again, by means of the verses above. I say, boldly, that I will trust God, the all powerful master of All, my Father! I say, in faith, I will trust Him. I will not be afraid.

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Added Monday morning, 5:00 AM

One of the Moravian Daily Texts for today reminds me of how good it is to be stepping out beyond what I think I can do on my own. Isaiah 10:12-13 speaks of the willful pride of a certain king who says:
By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding...
As I am stretching beyond my previous experience to do something new in these days, I'm thankful even for the temptation to be worried and anxious.

I'm thankful for this trial because any sense that I can "do" every day life because of my experience or wisdom is being taken away as I'm pushed beyond my comfort zone. I have an opportunity to respond with faith and trust, not to prove anything to anyone else, not to make anyone else think I'm something special, but simply because I NEED THE LORD to bring me through.

The interesting thing is that I can receive this lesson of faith and gain from this experience even before I know the outcome. Even though others may think that "I've got this" and I can "do this" under my own power and because of the skills and experience I have, I know better. I know how tempted I am to just throw in the towel and quit because of fear. I know how easy it would be to fail. I know how hard this is for me. Others may not, but that's okay. Through it all Jesus is teaching me personally and individually in a way that is not easy to share.

How is Jesus teaching you today? Will you receive what He has for you? Will you at least try to share what he is teaching you with someone else? Even if you fail, you will be blessed as you trust and listen to the Lord.

It's now 5:30 -- time to get dressed and out the door before 6:00. By 7:15 I'll be on site for the first work day and the lessons of this week.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Prayer Ready Now

In what ways are you being humiliated?

I ask that question now at 4 AM after reading yesterday's devotion* from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest.

Oswald says:
One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be totally humiliated before others without displaying even the slightest trace of anything but His grace.
How can that be done?

The title of that devotion is key: "Drawing on the Grace of God—Now." Oswald encourages us to immediately draw on the grace of God, to be prepared to do that always, right away, every time trouble comes our way.

I think of this as I reflect on a momentary situation that occurred yesterday as I carefully drove the bus down the Nicollet Mall. Being a new driver in training, I made a mistake and passed up a customer waiting at a bus stop before entering the mall. Then, a couple minutes later, I hesitated at a particular point and waited too long to cross an intersection.

At that point the bus behind me gave me a little toot of the horn and I realized I was holding up traffic. That got me just a bit flustered a bit, and for just a few minutes, the hyper-awareness required for this job was compromised. I know that because from that point until the end of that particular route I made two more small errors. No one was put at risk, but I know I wasn't as sharp as I was before that point.

It would have been better if I had prayed a quick prayer to the Lord, asking him to refocus me on my task. I am thankful for yesterday's experience and am praying I will remember that next time I'm annoyed or frustrated, whether it's with myself or someone else.

In Oswald's devotion for yesterday, he encourages us to be ready at ALL TIMES to draw on God's grace.
Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need.
At the beginning of this little early morning writing, I asked "In what ways are you being humiliated?"
  • Are you making errors while being watched carefully by a supervisor? 
  • Have you been honked at by co-workers? 
  • Are there ways in which your work is compromised through a focus on your failings? 
Oswald Chambers' devotion for yesterday would have us notice any feelings of humiliation and immediately pray, saying to the Lord, "Remove my attention from myself again, Jesus! Let me focus on what it is you want me to do here and now."

Oswald's encouragement is so good:
Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need.
As we do this regularly we will find that our reaction to annoyances and frustrations have become quick reflexes of prayer, and every breath will have us drawing on the grace of God. He will give you the peace and focus you need. And he'll do the same for me.

Here's Oswald's devotion from yesterday in its entirety:

http://utmost.org/drawing-on-the-grace-of-god%E2%80%94-now/
The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed. “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses”— that is where our patience is tested (2 Corinthians 6:4). 

Are you failing to rely on the grace of God there? Are you saying to yourself, “Oh well, I won’t count this time”? It is not a question of praying and asking God to help you— it is taking the grace of God now. We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible.

Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God. We are very slow to learn to draw on God’s grace through prayer.

“…in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors…” (2 Corinthians 6:5)— in all these things, display in your life a drawing on the grace of God, which will show evidence to yourself and to others that you are a miracle of His.

Draw on His grace now, not later. The primary word in the spiritual vocabulary is now. Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself. One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be totally humiliated before others without displaying even the slightest trace of anything but His grace.

“…having nothing….” Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you. “…and yet possessing all things”— this is poverty triumphant (2 Corinthians 6:10).
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* a "devotion" in this sense refers to a few paragraphs of scripture based thoughts, sort of like short sermons that are intended to be read on a day-by-day basis. These have been traditionally printed in booklets but are now commonly read online, on websites such as utmost.org.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

It Will Be Good

It's good to be back home in Cokato after our third week of Metro Transit training. I'm getting better at the job, feeling more confident, honing skills.

Our class of 8 guys spent Monday & Tuesday in the classroom and then, on Wednesday, after a couple hours of learning and practice with wheelchair ramps/lifts and restraints we started "in service training" -- driving routes -- mainly those that we'll be tested on next week. Yesterday and today we picked up and dropped off paying passengers for the first time -- plus today we did some "hours of darkness" practice finding stops and pulling in to the required 4-6 inches from curbs. We drove freeways and downtown and uptown streets -- including the (crazy) Nicollet Mall.

My co-learner (there are two students with one instructor in each training bus) seems to have a natural aptitude for doing well. In my case I learn through repetition -- practice makes perfect. And I'm very glad we've got three more days of practice until our next test. Like I told Cheryl, the "on the bus" instructor that's spending the most time with me and my co-learner, I'm feeling a lot more optimistic now than I was before. I think I might be able to do this.

On Thursday morning, just as we were going out to pick up passengers for the first time, I saw a sign on the window of a business that echoed what the Lord has been telling me. The sign reads
A NEW ADVENTURE IS COMING UP AND I'M SURE IT WILL BE A GOOD ONE.
I believe that's the attitude God wants me to have as I'm moving toward Thursday's test. My instructor and others have encouraged me toward confidence. She said I just need to have confidence in my skills. I know she's right.

Having customers on the bus a few times this week gave me a little feel for how this job might be once I'm actually doing it regularly. I will enjoy "being there" to serve families and elders and people of all races and abilities. Once we get through training we'll be assigned routes that we'll pretty much stick with for a few months. That will be a good thing -- both for continued building of confidence and for who knows what else in terms of the relationships God will bring my way.

First I do need to pass the test. I do ask your prayers that I would have all the faith and focus that I need to do so, using the skills that the Lord has provided through this training experience and before.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Fail and Pass

Early this morning (6 a.m.) I joined the Mission Point crew for prayer.* It's been awhile since I've been "on the call" on a regular basis. Today was only the second time since I've begun Metro Transit training that it's worked out time wise for me to call in.

There were four of us on the telephone prayer conference call this morning. We normally begin with a reading from the "Moravian Daily Texts" but just as we were starting the person who was leading said her electronic Bible (her "Kindle") stopped working, so we just leapt into prayer.

As we prayed, the "Watchword for the Day" kept leaping to mind, primarily the first, from Second Samuel 22:37 -
You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.  
(Click here to read it as I found it this morning.)
Later in the day, as I was on my lunch break from Metro Transit training, I looked at the verse again, this time in context, that is, in connection with the entire chapter 22 of Second Samuel.

That verse is part of a song of victory, a song "David sang to the Lord... when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul."

God has saved me too. Most recently, even today, God saved me from fear. God saved me from focusing too much on the nerve-wracking experience I had last Friday when I first failed my driving test, spent an hour or more doing some more training, and then went out again and received a passing grade. It was so nerve wracking because a new driver only gets two chances to pass.

I am so thankful that I passed. The whole experience, including how shaky I was during the second attempt and how wrung out I felt after -- and how I've been thinking since then about all the other ways I could fail going forward -- the whole experience just leads me back to how much I am cast back on the promises of God, who will work out his purposes in my life. I can be confident in that no matter what.

Our enemy the devil wants us to focus on our failings. He wants to turn our attention from God's promises and toward our own weaknesses. Like the religious leaders who taunted Jesus on the cross, he will laugh and tell us we need to save ourselves. But just as Jesus refused to despair but instead relied on the strength of His Father, Jesus can and will help us to do the same. God the Father raised Jesus the Son from the dead. He will raise you too. Not only in the end, not only when you die and go to haven, but right in the middle of your life now.

I will continue to take steps forward with this process. But I will keep moving forward because I believe God has me in his plan. This weekend we listed our Cokato house for sale. I have no idea how the selling process will go but I will continue to take steps in that process too.

God caught me I failed. He did not let me fail the second time. I think that's because he wants me to serve Him in some way through serving as a bus operator -- at least for awhile. He lifted me up and is now re-filling me with confidence so I can pass the next trial. In Second Samuel, King David found that to be true in his life. I believe that will be the same for me -- and for my family -- and for all of those who we've been privileged to know and to love in Jesus' name.

Take a look at Second Samuel 22. In what ways has God rescued you from defeat and despair up until now? How do you need him to do that for you today? Will you ask him to do so? Maybe it would be good to ask someone to pray with you too.

God can and will lead you from right where you are. He will bring you through. He will use the abilities he has poured into you and he will intervene and intercede in unexpected ways. He will make a good path for you, so you will be able to keep going. Your spiritual ankles will not be injured. You will receive just what you need when you trust in our Lord.

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*Those who have followed this blog for some time will know that I have been part of an early morning prayer group on the phone for the past few years. Those participating now, other than myself, are all part of the Mission Point Church staff -- a church that meets in a movie theater in Roseville, MN and various "missional communities" in the Twin Cities area.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn By Heart

We're in the midst of one of the testing phases of our Metro Transit bus operator training course. This morning we completed pre-trip testing and tomorrow we'll be tested on our driving skills. Right now I'm reviewing the "Preparing to Drive" section of the manual. If we pass the driving test, we'll move to the "in service" portion of training in the middle of next week, picking up and dropping off passengers! Wow!

This afternoon both I and the other man who has been doing on the road training with me passed a sort of "practice test" covering backing up (in a parking lot with cone markers) and a multitude of maneuvers on streets and freeways, traveling through both expected and unexpected situations and hazards. The "practice test" was overseen by our instructor. Tomorrow someone else will administer the real on the road test. We expect to pass, but something unexpected might happen. There are no guarantees. Frankly, I'm looking forward to getting through and over this test.

Why do we get tested? We, and countless others in many occupations, will have many people's lives in our hands. The driving examinations are in place so our employers will be satisfied that we can perform under pressure, not just to satisfy some law or employment requirement, but so we'll be less likely to kill people and cause damage to property. In the end, it's a matter of doing what we're told so we can serve people with the respect and love that God has for all who live.

I remember, years ago, when I was a young pastor, an older pastor I worked with quite a bit was big on the phrase "learn by heart." He wanted us to think of what others thought of as "memory work" (learning verses and Luther's Small Catechism) as storing up God's word "in our hearts."

The point of what he was saying was that it wasn't just a matter of stuffing words into our memories just to pass tests but instead it was a way of remembering what the One who loves us best has to say. That way, when the pressures and disappointments of life build, we'd have the Word to fall back on. It was a good practice, though I can't say I was ever very successful in passing on the practice to those I have mentored. I'm not sure why.

In any case, what we're learning as drivers is indeed something that is meant for more than just passing a test. It is a response of love toward all our neighbors -- toward all those who will be driving and walking and biking around our buses, and, of course, to those who will be putting their lives in our hands as passengers.

If you would like to pray for me and the other bus operator trainees, ask the Lord to give us the understanding that what we're learning isn't just to pass a requirement for employment, but it's so we can bless others and keep them as safe as we can.

Lord Jesus, I trust you. I trust that you will turn my attention away from "passing or failing" a test, but instead to bring everything into my heart, so I remember, even in the middle of the test, that doing well is a way of sharing love with all the neighbors that will be in and nearby our buses as we drive tomorrow -- and in the days to come.

At some point, tomorrow or after that, I'll let you know how it goes.

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