On August 22, 1981, I married this wonderful woman, my best friend, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are in love all the more with the years. We have four daughters, three sons by marriage, and six delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly I am just a guy who loves Jesus and loves my family.
This past summer 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 the dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through the window on a spring day, like clean windows — I had just washed ours — like a melody that won’t escape from my heart.
For 33 years as of June, 2020, I was a local church pastor. That number still 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 a 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.
Beginning July 1, 2020, in obedience to Jesus, I walked away from the career I had followed in the church to work in mediation. Now my focus is to bring peace to people’s lives through that means. I also run another business in prayer counseling, storytelling, and spiritual direction.
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. Just yesterday I had the privilege of praying with a young man needing freedom and he found it! There’s nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count.
You see, I understand deep pain. From the time I turned 5 years old until I turned 8, the associate pastor of my family’s congregation first groomed me, then, sexually abused me. For three years he repeatedly violated my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my self-image. I didn’t know what it meant to be a little boy, and later struggled with what it meant to be a man. Like the tentacles of a weed travel beneath the soil, so this season of destruction reached into every aspect of my life. I have been on weed patrol for decades. Healing has taken time.
Along the way, I learned how Jesus was at work even during the darkest times to prepare me to be a person of hope for others. He even called me to become a pastor in order to redeem the very “office of pastor” from which the other had abused me. He then allowed me to walk with countless sexual abuse victims in order to see them healed. As a wounded healer, Jesus made me able to help others. This has all been and still is a privilege and honor. There is no more sacred turf than in the memory of a hurting soul when Jesus shows up to heal.
I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words, and his healing power in my world have continued to be the foundation of the man I have become.
I love storytelling. In 2011, I experienced my first workshop in Simply the Story, a Bible storytelling method that involves those listening in discussion. Its simplicity and power staggered me. I was sold. I wanted to teach it when I retired, but began to use it. It is incredible to see how the word takes root in peoples lives in ways that had not happened with regular preaching. So again and again I still practice asking questions. This was good for me. Frequently I was better at “telling” than I was at “asking.”
I love writing, even though writing never came easily. I love seeing how words can heal, both the writer and the reader. And I love the way words can connect me to other people’s worlds. So, in preparation to be blogging while walking the Camino de Santiago de la Compostela, a friend encouraged me to start while I was home. “Practice blogging now,” she told me, “before expecting yourself to blog from another country.” Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically in our daily lives! So, I started. What I discovered is the power of sharing story with others. As I have continued, and now have written my first novel, I love the connections being built through words.
One fruit of writing, storytelling and asking questions has been growth. My heart has changed. I’ve become a better communicator, been able to more easily drop labels and enter forgiveness. Labels are those words and phrases I attach to others in my mind — they could be any descriptor from a derogatory word like “idiot” to a role like “wife.” The later is a true role but can be a limiting label. When I drop labels, forgive and practice communication, my relationships produce healing and joy in my life. This is what relationships are meant to accomplish in all our lives.