Archive for July, 2007

Go to the land I will show you.

Maryhill State Park, Goldendale, Washington.

We spent yesterday afternoon and evening with Linda’s family, first with her parents in Keizer, Oregon and then later in the afternoon with the rest of her family in Albany where Linda’s sister lives.  We celebrated Linda’s birthday, a little early, enjoyed some catching up, said our goodbyes and returned to the “fiver” about 11pm. 

We had a “take it easy” morning and then headed to Portland and I-84 for a short drive east to Maryhill State Park.  This park is right on the Columbia River across the bridge from Biggs, Oregon.  Over the hill is Goldendale, Washington, so for a couple of nights we were out of state, but we are now back in Washington for a couple of days.

I was drawn in my reading this morning to Genesis 12.  Read it and I think you will know why I was drawn there: The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  There are 3 “leavings” in this story I want to highlight.

I mentioned  yesterday I lived in Mason County 3 times longer then I have lived anywhere else, so in many ways it was my home.  Linda is more rooted in the area where we were last night, the Willamette Valley, where her family has farmed for more then a hundred years, but I had put down my deepest roots in Mason County, Washington and yet I repeatedly have heard the Father say “leave your country…and go…”  So the first leaving is the leaving of a place.

But there is also a second leaving, the leaving of “your people”.  Not only have we left the people who are our flesh and blood, as we leave Brad and his family behind in Gig Harbor, but we are leaving our spiritual family too.  Our people, people like: Doug, Jeanee, Bill, Leslee, Harris, Jean, Mike, Maggie, Carol, Shannon, Jim, Phil, Colby, Jill, Rachel, Royal, Jordan, Mark, Marlene, Jon and Joann, Dennis, Diane and the list literally could fill up this post.  These are our people.  They are the one’s who have guarded and protected our souls, made us laugh, cried with us and more than anything, helped us to keep on believing. These and many more are our people and we are leaving them “to go to the land I will show you”.  The second leaving is a leaving of  a people.

There is one more leaving and it is the leaving of “your father’s household…”  I wasn’t sure what the Spirit was speaking into me this morning as I read this phrase.  The first two “leavings” are fairly easy to see but I wasn’t sure what He wanted me to hear with this third “leaving”

As we were driving down the Columbia Gorge I began to understand that to leave our father’s household was to leave the Church in Mason County.  For better or worse I built into the Spiritual community of Mason County for more than 18 years.  I learned to preach and pastor there, I preached the word of God at least a 1000 times into the Shelton and surrounding community, I performed over 120 weddings, buried dozens of people, some who were close and many I didn’t even know and I met with 100’s of people to talk about the Father’s will and how we might all stay better in step with the Spirit.  I had been part of the Father’s household in Mason County for more than 18 years, an integral part, in fact.

This morning I understood that the call “to leave your father’s household and to go to the land I will show you”, was a call to leave the work the Spirit had called me to, a work I was comfortable doing and a work God’s hand was on in so many powerful ways.

For months I had fought the call to leave and go.  I wanted to stay and see what was broken, healed and what was lost, recovered. But the call to leave the “Father’s household and go to a land I will show you” was a call to leave the Spiritual family in Mason County and follow the Father to a new Land.

In many ways, this third leaving is the hardest one, for some reasons that are obvious and many that are probably not understand by most of you.  The third leaving is a leaving of a parish, a community of faith in which I was a spiritual Father.

But Abraham did not leave his country, his people or his Father’s household without a promise and a blessing (read it in Genesis 12:2-3) and it is that promise and blessing I claim for myself as we go to the land He will show us. 

I believe our promise, yours and mine is the promise of a restoration greater than what was left behind and a blessing far beyond any we have ever known before. 

And so we leave to go to the land He will show us.

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July 31, 2007 at 5:20 pm 5 comments

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.6

Woodburn, Oregon.

Canyon Paul turns 1!

Item one.  Canyon Paul Scandrett turns 1!   Friday was Grandson #3’s first birthday and it was celebrated in style on Saturday.  Both sets of grandparents, some cousins, assorted other family and friends enjoyed a great party put on by parents Brad and Summer.  They were great hosts and party throwers.  After the party we said our goodbyes and headed out to Mason Lake were our trailer was parked, had a little break and then went to a reception for newly weds Colby and Jill Wright, whose wedding we attended in Idaho a couple of weeks ago.  A few minutes after we returned home we were greatly surprised and pleased to see Brad and family show up.  We thought we would not see them again for a few months and were so excited to have them come out for an hour or so to say goodbye again.  The McComb girls and Jon Williams came by too so we had a trailer full of great young adults who are so precious to us and we all had fun watching Canyon.  It was a fun day.

Item two.  I had the honor of preaching twice yesterday at Rivers of Grace in Olympia in the morning and Rivers of Grace, Shelton in the evening.  I love the name and I love the church.  They have been an integral part of our life the last months because of our relationship with their pastors Dennis and Diane Teague. The Teagues are in China for a few weeks and asked me to step in for them.  The church family spoke some wonderful prophetic words over us and released us to go on our way as we follow the Spirit into new places.  They live up to their name.  It was fun to have a number of people from our past show up in both services to say hello and goodbye.  We do have some really dear friends.

Item three: After our Belfair State Park stay we parked the trailer at Bill and Leslee McComb’s home for the weekend and spent some time, in the busy weekend with them.  They are recovering in slow, but good ways from the loss of Willie 3.5 months ago, but there continues to be so much pain and loss for them. Kaylee and the boys have been with them, from Arizona the last month, and that has been good for all of them.  There are some not so bad days and some not so good days but they are doing what they can to enjoy the moment while continuing to grieve.  We had “Art Night” Friday night where the most of the McCombs, our friend Carol, Linda and I joined artist Amy Cooper for a night of water colors on the dining room table.  It was a lot of fun and Amy is really good, Leslee is not bad and the rest of us…  I commend them for doing fun things, so they can be together carrying each others pain.  We will miss this family greatly for a whole lot of reasons but one stands out-we share a similar pain.

Item four.  21 months ago, when I resigned my pastoral position, I think we both knew one day we would be leaving the place we had made a good life for more than 16 years. We just didn’t know when or where.  Last night the when part of the question was answered though the where is yet to be fully clear.  As we drove out of the place that has been my home, 3 times longer than anywhere else, it was bitter sweet as most partings are.  We leave some really great memories behind, some very wonderful friends behind but we also leave a great deal of pain behind.  Who ever said parting is such sweet sorrow was right.  We are in the Salem area to spend some time with Linda’s family and then tomorrow sometime we will head east.  We will keep you posted on where that is as we know it.  After thinking about leaving for so long it is good to be on our way.

Item five. If you haven’t already please read the post just below this one announcing the news of Traci and Brandon’s new boy and our grandson #4.  It will be great fun to watch this story unfold.  You can read all about it on Traci’s blog here.

July 30, 2007 at 11:12 am 3 comments

A new grandson is on the way.

Some of you are aware that our daughter and son in law, Traci and Brandon Armstrong, have been working to adopt a baby from Ethiopia.  After tons of paper work, a lot of prayer, money and waiting they received great news;  they have a new son and so of course we now have grandson #4!

Rather than writing about it myself, please go to Traci’s blog (you can find it here) and read all about how it came about and some about the beautiful new son.  She tells the story much better than her father can so please go over there and take a look! We are so excited to be grandparents one more time.  Baby “E” will join brothers Sloan and Sean and cousin Canyon in our grandson pool.  Stay tuned for more information here or for more accurate and up to the minute information find it at Traci’s site.

Congratulations to the Armstrong family!

July 28, 2007 at 6:39 pm 1 comment

Six pastors and a counselor.

I am pretty much done writing about the previous 21 months and all the things that took place in my personal and ministry life.  However I wanted to write about 7 men who opened their time and lives to me in significant ways.  Without exception each one was directed by the Spirit to invest in me and I am so grateful for the time each gave to help me heal and grow.

  • Pastor Mark Sartori.  Mark has pastored the Shelton Alliance Church for the past 18 years and is a man who gives himself tirelessly to care for hurting and disenfranchised people.  We met almost every week for months, talking about life and ministry, brokenness and failure, but always Mark centered what we talked about in forgiveness and restoration.  He probed and questioned, gave me books to read and when we ate dinner together two nights ago it was clear to both of us we were used of God to help heal and shape the other. Thank you Mark for your consistent and faithful life as a man, husband, father, friend and pastor.
  • Dr. Jeff Wagamon. Within a couple of days of my resignation, Dr. Jeff was in my life.  I knew him because I had spent some time with him when Paul died and knew him to be a sensitive and proactive counselor.  He made time in a full schedule to meet with both of us and then I spent an hour a week in his office for 18 months.  The value of his ministry investment in me and my family cannot be calculated. Not only did he meet with Linda and me, he also met with the board of the church I had pastored trying to find some way into reconciliation and restoration.  Though his efforts to bring healing with the church were rebuffed, he kept on trying to do whatever was necessary to promote healing in our lives and the life of our family.  He is a quiet, caring, Godly man and I am so grateful for the hours he spent guiding and encouraging me to not give in or give up.  Thanks Dr. Jeff.
  • Pastor Todd Pierce.  Todd pastors professional bull riders as a full time ministry but his extended ministry flows out to all kinds of people.  Shortly after Christmas, 2005, Doug and Jeanee Wright took Linda and me over to Idaho to spend some time with Todd and Leslie.  It was to be the beginning of a relationship that grew to include many others in Todd’s sphere of relationships.  Our time in Oklahoma is a direct result of this first trip to Idaho.  Todd spoke words of grace and healing over us and was greatly used to rebuild shaken confidence and faith.  He is a young man but a gifted encourager and believes strongly in restoration, not as an option but as the responsibility of the Family.  I know we will see Todd more as we step into this next season of our lives.  May God bless you Todd and Leslie and continue to use you in a mighty way in the Kingdom.
  • Pastor Burt Smith. A friend of mine who attends The Church of Living Water where Burt is pastor, got us together over breakfast.  Living Water is a very large church and Burt is one of the busiest men I have ever met, yet he took time every couple of weeks to meet with me, to kick me in the rear when necessary and to support Linda in ways no one else was doing.  That he would give me his cell, home and church phone numbers with the freedom to call whenever I needed him, was a huge statement of his availability to me. His concern and support of Linda was clearly of the Spirit as Linda felt so rejected by leadership she had submitted to for more then 16 years.  Burt is passionate, out spoken and very direct and I benefited greatly from both his compassion and his boldness.  He too, attempted with out much success, to advance the reconciliation and restoration process with our former church and we are so grateful for his ministry in that area as well as his personal ministry to both of us.  Burt’s assistant Kelly was also such an encourager many times over these last months.  Thank you Burt and thank you Kelly.
  • Pastor Ron Marrs. Ron was a pastor at Westwood Church in Olympia for 25 years and a friend from college and seminary days.  He is now a professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.  Ron came on the scene to facilitate meetings and conversation with the former church, in an attempt to bring about some kind of relational healing.  He met with all concerned individually, he led meetings, met with our kids and their families and worked tirelessly to be a peacemaker.  In addition he spent several hours with Linda and me talking and sharing important things together.  He was often frustrated by the lack of movement, but his patient, careful and  compassionate effort ministered to all of us and came as close as anyone to accomplishing the goal of restoration. Ron, our family owes a huge debt of gratitude to you.  Blessings!
  • Pastor Andy Taylor. With no offense intended, we would never have gone to Oklahoma if not for Andy Taylor.  I remember the first time I heard his voice, heavy with a southern kind of accent, on my cell phone.  Seriously, if I could put a voice to God, it would sound like Andy’s!  His call to invite us to come spend time with him and his church family turned out to be just what we needed.  He was gracious, encouraging, questioning, prodding and most of all he could see things we could not see that the Father wanted to do for us and give us.  We are going to Oklahoma for an extended period because we believe, as Andy does, that our full restoration to ministry will take place there.  That a Northwestern couple would come to a church in a small town in Oklahoma to find healing and hope is clearly a Spirit deal.  Andy, thank you for giving yourself so freely to us.
  • Pastor Dennis Teague.  Dennis is a missionary and pastor who I have known for 18 years but had never really had a conversation with until 8 months ago.  Dennis pastors a church with services in Olympia and Shelton and is currently in China, teaching and ministering.  Dennis and his wife Diane are tireless Kingdom servants who serve and serve and serve. Their personal commitment to the broken and the hurting is amazing.  They are also some of the happiest people I have been around.  Dennis and I met every Monday for weeks, sharing all kinds of things, but mostly I learned about the Spirit from Dennis. His patient, careful and non-defensive way of communicating allowed me to ask questions, to express my uncertainty about certain of his theological views without any fear of misunderstanding.  He is not interested in convincing so much as he is in learning and growing.  I will miss Dennis’s gracious view of almost everything.  He is a grace-man.  Thank you Dennis and Diane. 

For real wholeness and restoration to take place in the life of any broken person it takes a lot of people.  There are many more who could be written about, many of them have been in other posts.  I write about these men because without exception they are men of God, men who listen and follow the Spirit and men who are not afraid to step into hard places to do what they are called to do.  We are so blessed.

July 27, 2007 at 10:33 am 4 comments

Does Christianity have an image problem?

I read an email from my friend Todd Pierce this morning where he said this about his mission and ours: …our Father has given us the honor to share this message, through word and deed, to hundreds of thousands of people.  This should be the heart of anyone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good.  You just want to share it with as many people as you can get to. 

So my queston is, why is it that so many of us just don’t do it?

There are, of course multiple reasons, but I want to focus on this one; we are embarrassed by the name Christian or Christianity.  For so many people the word conjures up images of televangelists, stuffy churches, boring sermons, the Crusades, witch trials, political infighting, tawdry public behavior, excommunication and other not so attractive visions of the Christian faith.  Being a Christian is just not something we want to talk about.

This morning I read a lengthy review of a book with the title; Unchristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity. (David Kinnaman. To be published by Baker in October) The book begins with the comment that Christianity has an image problem and goes on to talk about the problems secular 20 and 30 somethings have with the faith many of my readers have embraced.  The list of complaints will not surprise we who call ourselves Christians: uptight, anti-homosexual, proselytistic, sheltered, politicized, judgmental, etc.

Obviously I have not read the whole book, but I found myself as I read the review, being defensive for the church.  If you have read much of this blog you might find that strange, as I have been quite critical of the church over the past few months. Christians do need to take this authors criticisms seriously, as we do the criticisms that come from all kinds of groups and people.  We do need to work on our image.  It is true that if Christians would act like their Leader we would be a whole not more attractive.

But the truth is the Christian church is a community of the graced (new word).  We are members of the brother/sisterhood of sinners, some, of the most embarrassing kind.  Jesus not only chose to die for sinners, He chose to allow His name to be associated with people who continue to sin, to fall short of His glory in multiple and regular ways.  For whatever reason He is “ok” with His followers making a mess of his brand/image, He is “ok” with imperfection.  That is the whole point of grace, is it not?

Being a Christian is to admit that I am sometimes an uptight, anti-a lot of groups and things, I don’t see myself as part of the whole Body of Christ and so think my way is right, I do shelter myself from the outside world, I am judgmental and unkind.  I am sometimes all the things the secular person things I am and while that is not right, it is why I so desperately need grace.

When we invite people to join us in following Jesus, take the name Christ-one, and associate with His church, we are inviting them into a horribly flawed, sinful church that for whatever reason, known only to Him, He loves.  To be a Christian is to associate yourself, not just with Jesus, or with the perfect church of your imagination, but also with a sadly dysfunctional church which is graciously and mercifully embraced, if not by us or by the secular world, at least by the One whose “image/brand” was not to polished when He walked this earth.

Todd’s call to us to share with as many people as we can, because we have seen how good it is, must be done within the reality that the church is flawed, we are failures, we are broken, we don’t always get it right, we are imperfect but we are a mercifully graced people who know what it is to be set free from having to present a culturally clean image and instead offer an image covered by the wonderful grace of Jesus.

Yes, I think the church has an image problem. But the image problem we have is not one of failing to measure up to the standard set by our Leader, it is in not humbly living out the major tenet of our faith-grace.

July 26, 2007 at 1:21 pm 1 comment

Lee Akin progress report.

  For the most updated information on Lee check this post here.

In early March Professional bull rider Lee Akin was seriously injured in a bull riding wreck.  He had a very severe head injury and spent a number of weeks in a hospital in Montgomery, Alabama until being transferred to a hospital in Oklahoma City, closer to his home.

Back on March 28th I wrote about Lee and the need for the Father to intervene on his behalf and heal him.  You can read that article here.  Since that post I have had at least one search every day and sometimes many more land on my site seeking information on Lee and his progress, so here is what I know.

Lee and Mary are part of the church family in Oklahoma where Linda and I are headed and this morning I had an email from Pastor Andy of Trinity Fellowship reporting that Lee is doing very well and progressing in all areas.  Andy spent 3 hours with him yesterday and his report is very encouraging.  Praise the Father for answering our prayers-it truly is a miracle.

Of course, with severe head injuries it often takes a long time to get back to a place where normal activities can be resumed, so pray for continued good recovery and quicker progress then one would normally expect.  Miracles defy ordinary so we are believing for more miracles.

Pray for all the adjustments Lee and Mary have to make in adjusting to the progress as it comes.  Pray for their little girl, Jada and energy to parent her well, given all the other issues they face as a family.

Most of all thank God for answering prayer and let’s continue to believe for a full and complete recovery.  When we get to Oklahoma I will try to get some pictures and a maybe even a message from Lee to share with you.  Check back in a month or so.

July 25, 2007 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

What did I miss?

I received an email last week where the person called into question my affection for, and quoting of, Henri Nouwen.  It came on a day when I was ready to post a piece simply called Brennan, about a man and his writings that have affected my recent spiritual pilgrimage, who has some similarities in content and criticism as that directed at Henri Nouwen.  They wrote concerns about these men as well as a church movement called the Emergent Church.

I wondered what it was I had missed.  Brennan Manning has a singular focus, spelled out in multiple ways:  Father God loves you. He really, really does.  With all of your flaws, fears and failures, He really, really loves you.  Is that not the Gospel?  Is that not what most of us find hardest to believe about our Father? 

I have a pretty good theological and Biblical education-about 9 years, in addition to the 40 years of personal Bible study and reading in theological, devotional and Biblical  areas. My personality is not one to just swallow anything anyone says, whether they are Billy Graham, Pope Benedict, Rick Warren, Brennan Manning or Henri Nouwen.  I am well equipped to sift through a variety of sources and find truth, especially truth needed for my personal life. Isn’t that what Jesus promised all of us filled with the Spirit?  When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

Henri Nouwen along with Brennan Manning are Catholics.  (Nouwen is deceased)  Do I believe when we take communion the bread and the wine actually become the Body of Christ as these men probably do? No. Do I believe in the infallibility of the Pope and apostolic succession?  No.  There are many Catholic doctrines that I do not find compelling or supported by Scripture but these two men have much to say about life and godliness that resonates with me.  Am I at risk to fall into error?  Probably not, because I am filled with the Spirit of truth who leads me to truth and away from error. I also have accountability relationships where any new doctrine, theory or practice would be intersected by those relationships.

I love the person who sent me the email.  They are thoughtful, caring, committed followers of Jesus and they want others to know Him and follow Him.  They care about me and I am grateful for their concern.  What bothers me is the fear they and others have that somehow the Spirit is not able to do His work.  That by reading Henri or Brennan or others who are outside their circle will cause me to slip off into the deep end of spiritual liberalism or whatever other ism might be lurking nearby.  The website they sent me to, as a way of cementing their argument against these men, was the writings of individuals who believe they know more truth than you or me and if we would just read them we would be guided into all truth.  Do these folks have anything to say of value?  No doubt they do but should they play Holy Spirit in my life or yours?

I appreciate the counsel they sent.  I am not above error nor do I have all knowledge, but what I do have is a good, solid background in the Bible and I read widely and deeply in areas of the Spiritual life and theology and more than that, much more than that, I have the Spirit of God who is in me.  A significant ministry of the Spirit is to teach truth.  I trust Him to do that work.

Here is a typical quote from Henri Nouwen from his book The Name of Jesus: The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which the world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross. … It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest.

And one from Brennan Manning: The Christ who weeps over godforsaken neighborhoods…is a man of sorrows moved in the pit of his stomach for the lostness of the sheep who do not know him. The heart of the crucified Lord of Glory does not turn away in revulsion or disgust at the wretchedness and perversity of the human condition.  There is no crime so horrible or no sin so dispicable that it was left at the foot of the cross.  “He took our sickness away and carried our diseases for us” (Isaiah 53:4).  How is this possible?  Because Jesus is God.   (Brennan Manning, A Glimpse of Jesus p.132)

What did I miss?

July 24, 2007 at 10:48 am 2 comments

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