Archive for September, 2007

Trinity Family Fellowship

The first time Linda and I visited Trinity Fellowship in Oklahoma we were gun shy about churches in general and leaders of churches in particular.  The people we had met from Trinity talked about family in ways that we found very attractive but given what we were going through at the time, with the leaders of the church I had pastored for 16+ years, we were pretty skeptical.

For 16+ years we thought we were part of a family, but when I  chose to live outside the boundaries of the Father’s intentions for me, rather than to circle the wagons around a fallen family member, the leadership decided (it seemed to us) to make an example of me and in turn my family and put us out of the church we considered our family.  Linda, would tell you that what hurt most about the whole situation was the rejection by those she considered to be her family.

All of that to say, when we first heard the people from Trinity talking about family we had to see it to believe it.  So over a two year period we came and visited a couple of times and we are now here for an extended and indefinite time.

When Andy Taylor started this fellowship almost 20 years ago he was determined not to just have another church but to be a place where people could come and find real acceptance and genuine love.  Right from the start Trinity has been the place for people “nobody else wanted” and the place where, not only you could be yourself, but the place where you could find out who your Father intends you to be. 

There is little pretentiousness here, in fact there is so little of it, I doubt anyone even knows what the word means.  I don’t say that to demean anyone but to say these folks are so determined to be who they are and let you be who you are they don’t use words or say things just to try and  impress. 

For the last several years, Trinity has used an old steak house for it’s offices and worship facility.  While the nearly 100 acre property is beautiful the buildings are not much, over crowded and lacking in almost every area most churches would consider normative.  But for us that has been part of the charm.  No one comes to Trinity because it is a comfortable building or because you can sneak in and enjoy the place without being noticed.  If you are part of this Family, it is because you are drawn to the people and the love they pour on you. 

The offices are one way you can tell this is a Family and not a church.  No one has much privacy. Two of the pastors desks face each other and “their” office is also the copy room, the receptionist office, the computer room, the work room, the waiting room and the lunch room.  The office staff share computers, telephones and work space.  A private office is an oxymoron. No one has much claim to their own space, everyone shares everything.  Pastor Andy’s office, though separate from the other “offices,” is the gathering place for anyone who happens to come by.  There are few private conversations and even less privacy to collect your thoughts.  While it sometimes drives me nuts, because I am so not used to this kind of environment, it is part of what it means to be Family and not a corporation.  If you are a young and growing family, kids may have to share a bedroom or make due with a smaller kitchen or family room but that is what families do. It isn’t always easy to get things done nor is it the most “effective” way to accomplish things, but it is Family.

When it is lunch time, someone puts out food for sandwiches or everyone goes together to lunch.  As far as I know, no one goes home for lunch or out by themselves. If you happen by at lunch time then you eat too. 

The Biblical phrase “no respecter of persons” is lived out here.  There does not seem to be any hierarchy here.  There are ex-drug addicts (and drug addicts) who are part of this family.  People who have been destroyed by their lifestyle, poor and disadvantaged, all are loved the same.  I have watched the pastors of this Family spend as much time, or more time with the broken and lost who wander in off the interstate, as they do with the leaders of the church or the world champion cowboys who come here to be part of what the Father is doing.  Linda and I have been accepted and affirmed here, not because of who or what we were, but simply because we were Family.

In a few weeks the Trinity family will move into a beautiful new building that sits on a hill about .5 a mile to the east of where our trailer is parked.  The biggest concern I have heard expressed about the new building is not about how many it will seat or what the technical stuff will be like, or how much it cost, but how much of an impact it will make on the unchurched being willing to come into it and the potential it might have to change who they are as a Family.  They are actually concerned that people will come because it is really nice and not because they want to be part of the Family.

The prayer here is “Father give us as many people as we can take care of”.  This morning a man prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the old steak house the Father had given them to meet in and then thanked Him for “the new house you have given us for a bigger family”.  Attitude like that is what makes Trinity so compelling.  Nobody arrives or leaves without a hug and when you hear “rough and tough”cowboys say “I love you” to each other as they part it is clear why this is a Family and not a church.

There is a desperation here, not to get more people to come, or to build a bigger thing, but to hear what the Father wants for His family. At the Family prayer time this morning, I heard things like this prayed: “Daddy, if you don’t come and help us we can’t do this.”  Father, if you don’t show us how to do this, we won’t be able to do it.” Andy often says, “we are living proof that God can use anybody”.  That is not just rhetoric or false humility, he is completely serious and that kind of conviction is what makes them so desperate to hear from the Father. They believe the Church is His Family so why would they not be desperate to know what He knows and hear what He has to say to them.

Oklahoma is not our home.  There is no way we would have come to Oklahoma to be part of a church.  I cannot imagine any scenario that would have gotten us to sell everything we had, leave family and friends behind to be part of a church in western Oklahoma.

But we did not come to a church, we came to a Family. To a Family that is helping us to believe and trust again and to a leadership that lives out what it means to restore and heal, not just in our lives but in the lives of everyone who comes into the house.

How long will we be in western Oklahoma?  I don’t know?  How long will Trinity be our Family?  Eternally.

September 26, 2007 at 10:15 am 2 comments

Hearing the Father’s voice.

There are several dynamics that make Trinity Fellowship here in Sayre what it is.  For a few days I think I might try to describe them.  I know, writing about them won’t fully give you the flavor of why this place is so attractive but I will do my best.

Yesterday morning I was sitting in Andy’s office with several other people.  This is a regular occurance.  There is often something that is being talked about but more often then not the conversation rolls on a number of different subjects.  There are several young families and not so young families that came to Sayre for visits and were so captivated by the place, they moved here.  Some of these folks will be in the room with the other pastors and there will be a free flowing conversation about whatever. 

This is so rare.  No pastor, at least that I have ever heard of or seen, especially of large churches, is like Andy.  His door is always open, if there is a conversation going on and you walk by you are waved in and invited into the conversation.  When I was a pastor I guarded my privacy and time religiously as most of the other religious professionals I know.  But not here.

While there are some conversations in the office that are more private, it is rare. All are welcome but mostly these visits are with those of us who are here all the time.

Yesterday, there was some good stuff flowing around the room.  The subject had to do with a new fellowship in Arizona, started by a cowboy friend of some of the men in the room. The church had grown so fast they needed help and turned to Trinity for help.  I think some of the guys are going out there this week.  There are some very real problems and issues that need resolution and those were discussed.

But the real subject was the Father and specifically hearing the Father.  I was raised, educated and served in an environment where hearing the Father was seldom ever mentioned accept as He has spoken in the past and recorded in the Bible.  This is a very typical position for the dispensational/reformed traditions.  For sure the Bible is the test, it is the final Word but it is not the only word.  I am enjoying the freedom to listen and hear my Papa talk.

Andy is big on asking you regularly: What has the Father been saying to you?  What have you been hearing from the Father?  If you go and ask him what he thinks you should do about something he will ask: What is the Father telling you?  He seldom will say, here is what I think the Father is saying to me for you, though if you press and he has something he will share it with you. 

The point is; we can hear the Father for ourselves and if we ask Him for answers and direction He will give it.  Sometimes it is confirmed by Scripture but it isn’t required.  Scripture does not speak to every issue of life and the Father wants to share with us the answers and direction for every area.

So many pastors and churches are after the latest thing in church growth and church life.  I was.  If someone else was doing it and it was working I probably looked at it.  The whole Purpose Driven Life thing is a classic example.  Good stuff, no doubt.  A Word from the Father, for sure.  But I wonder if it was a Word for the world as much as it was a Word for the Family of the guy who wrote it.  Most things the Father tells one person or group is seldom something He wants to tell you.  He is pretty specific with His kids.

Here, they want to know what the Father is saying to Trinity, to this Family.  Living out of that Word has produced a Family that is clearly living out a vision for this place and this moment in time.  While there are many other ministries and churches that have affiliated with Trinity, the Word for this place is not the Word for them or there.  When there is a question or an issue the question is “what is the Father telling you about that?”

The more that question is asked and the answer expected the more the Father is heard.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice and come to him.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t recognize his voice. (John 10)

Do you recognize the Voice”  What is the Father saying to you?

September 25, 2007 at 8:05 am 3 comments

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.13

After arriving in Sayre, three weeks ago Thursday, I was only here one weekend before I went to Florida for a week, so this was my first full Sunday-Sunday week.  It was a very interesting week.  Linda is still in South Jordan, Utah where she helped Brandon with the boys while Traci was in Florida at a MOPs convention.  You can read her post on her time there here.  Linda will be back here on Thursday so Jake and I still have a few days to make it on our own.

Item one: Since I have been so full of praise for the Huskies, I need to be sure and mention what a stinker that was Saturday night.  It was on TV here and at half time it was about 11pm so I gave up and went to bed.  Guess that was a good choice.  But hey, what about the OU Sooners and the OSU Cowboys.  Guess I should ride this horse out here. Like it is in Washington, where you are either a Dawg or a Coug, here it is either a Sooner or a Cowboy.   But being so close to Texas there are a lot of Longhorn fans out here, too. The OSU/Texas Tech game was sure exciting. I will try but right now it just isn’t the same.  I miss the NW so much I even find myself wondering how the Ducks did.  Some know just how sad that is.

Item two: Perryton, Texas. Saturday morning I met my friend Brooks Brewer at the airport in Elk City(10 miles east of Sayre) and after jump starting his plane, yep that’s what I said, we flew north and west to the Texas panhandle town of Perryton. Find out about the area here. Maybe your US geography is better than mine but after flying north and west from Elk City we were into Texas but only 7 miles south of Oklahoma.  Those of us from the NW and other parts of the US probably forget the panhandle thing that Texas and Oklahoma have.  I wonder why it was separated like that?  If you know, let us know.

We were in Perryton to meet Trinity Pastors Andy and Daryle who had driven up because they were spending the weekend there.  Trinity Fellowship has an extended ministry of about 10 churches that are affiliated with them for fellowship, encouragement and support.  The church we were visiting is part of a denomination that has clearly lost it’s way, spiritually and morally speaking and the leadership of the church was looking to Trinity to help them make their exit from this denomination and into a fellowship more in tune with who they are.  Pastor Andy does a lot of this kind of counselling and leadership and often takes a group from here to be part of the meeting and process.  So I was invited to go along.  It was really a good time, so encouraging and positive to see a group of men truly seeking to do the right thing for the people they are leading, wrestling with the real costs of following Jesus into true Kingdom life.  Their level of commitment was amazing.  Andy preached there Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I am anxious to hear his report.

Item three:  Prayer for the week. O God, You declare Your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant me the fullness of your grace, that I, running to obtain Your promises, may become a partaker of Your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen  More like this available here.  I try to pray these weekly prayers each morning along with the other things the Spirit speaks into me.

Item four: This article is worth your time.  I thought, at one time it was my responsibility to set people straight who were, in my opinion, wrong in their doctrine or theology.  So much done in the name of “defending the faith” is mean spirited and really more about our egos than it is helping someone to see the light.  Helen Mildinhall at Next-Wave Ezine writes an excellent piece titled “How did Christianity become an excuse to be so mean? Or, how I resigned from the doctrine police” that speaks to the reasons why we should choose to love those who we think have got it wrong rather than to speak out against them. Read it here.

Item five: I was given the opportunity yesterday to preach at Trinity.  As I wrote above, Pastor Andy and Pastor Daryle were in Texas so I was asked to speak.  I really enjoyed it.  I have had a few other opportunities the last 3 months and all of them have been fun and without the pressure I felt for the years I preached every Sunday.  While I enjoyed it all, the knowlege that I didn’t have to do it next Sunday left a good feeling.  I like to preach and I think I have some anointing in it but for now it is nice to know Andy will be back next Sunday.

I have a great respect for the men and women who bring the Word every Sunday, week in and week out.  It is a high calling and it is not easy, though some make it look like it is.  I also have a deeper appreciation for what it means to sit and listen to someone preach.  It is really hard to keep your mind on what is being said and harder still to take what is heard and apply it.

I think October is called, by some, “Pastor Appreciation Month” and so to all my pastor friends who have ministered so faithfully for many, many years and the many others who have spoken into my life over the years-thanks, thanks a lot.

September 24, 2007 at 7:58 am 2 comments

Kingdom Kids

Here is a great quote from an excellent book by Kris Vallotton (find it here): As the royal priesthood of God, we are called to develop a culture in our homes, churches, businesses and ultimately in nations that brings out the best in individuals, facilitating their princely destinies. We do this by seeing and treating others and ourselves not as we are, but as God created us to be.  This knowledge and love can only come out of intimacy with God.  No longer are we slaves, but His friends, walking by His side as kings and queens of His court.

My own struggles with insecurity, is proof enough for me, of the negative effect people have on our lives when our value is demeaned, intentionally or ignorantly by significant people in our lives.  Religion does that to us.  The whole “such a worm as I” value that was a huge part of the church culture of my youth, speaks a whole different and horribly flawed dynamic into our lives.  Our value, it says, comes from what we do and especially what we don’t do rather than simply because the Father has bestowed on us a love and value that transcends any nature or nurture.

Over the last two years especially, I have been so blessed to see in our children and their spouses a strength, courage and self-esteem that are a testimony to the powerful difference it makes in children to be affirmed in who they are and not valued for what they accomplish or don’t.  To watch them rise above the difficulties of these last years, including the loss of their younger brother, and then see them raising their own children to see their value and worth in who they are, shows me the difference it makes in peoples lives when someone calls out their “hidden greatness“.

Father, give all of us as grandparents, parents and young adults, powerful Spirit insight to see beyond the outward struggles of our grandchildren, children and friends and speak to the treasure that lies within them.  Give us wisdom, Father, to develop kings and priests, and give us power to destroy the works of the devil in the lives of the precious children we are privileged to shepherd.  In Jesus Name!

September 21, 2007 at 8:03 am 1 comment

Check out Brad’s blog.

Both Traci and Brad (our two kids) have blogs as well as Brad’s wife Summer.  They are all into it at different levels but they all have good things to say.  I mentioned Traci’s blog this morning and this afternoon I want to mention Brad’s. 

Brad and Summer recently moved to Gig Harbor, Washington to a new ministry.  You can read about this new venture here and here.  But what I really want you to go and read is his most recent post.  (You can find it here.)  I am really proud of him and since this is his story to tell, please go to his blog and read it.  It will be worth the trip.

September 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Alone.

Yesterday morning I made the 4 hour round trip to Oklahoma City to take Linda to the airport.  She is in Salt Lake City where she will spend the next 9 days with the “kids” and grandkids.  Traci leaves today, sometime for a MOPs convention in Orlando and Linda will be watching the boys during the day, while Brandon is at work and then sharing duty with him in the evenings.  It was really hard to send her off and not get to go along.  Though I do not have a job in the sense that I have to be at work everyday, I do have important things to do here that I have not had in the last 2 years.  So, I am alone here in Sayre.  There are people around that I enjoy and will no doubt keep me occupied but when Linda is not here, which is rare, I am alone.

It is great that Linda is not teaching this year so she can be of help to the kids.  It won’t be long until we will need to head back to SLC to watch the boys while Traci and Brandon go to Ethiopia to pick up our grandson, affectionately known as Baby “E”.  You can keep up with that story by reading Traci’s blog.  There have been some interesting discussions there lately.  Find it here.

Just read the new Nouwen devotional and found it a strong read.  Hope it blesses you.

Standing Under the Cross

Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that “sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).

Let us be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood under the cross, trusting in God’s faithfulness notwithstanding the death of his beloved Child.

Spirtual maturity is the goal and learning to live above the loss and the pain of everyday life is indeed a place to measure our growth.  Even in the little things like doing life for a time, “alone”.

Jake just woke up, hey, I guess I am not alone.

September 19, 2007 at 6:01 am 2 comments

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.12

We arrived back in Sayre late Saturday night about 30 hours after we were supposed to be back.  Weather in Atlanta, Friday, caused a backlog of flights in an out of one of the world’s busiest airports and we were held on the ground in Florida, then diverted to Birmingham, Alabama then finally into Atlanta where we missed our connection.  After staying overnight in a hotel near the airport we arrived in time for our 3:30 pm flight only to sit around for a couple more hours until the flight was cancelled for mechanical difficulty.  Finally we were on a 7:45 flight into Oklahoma City and then after a hour and a half drive to Sayre, we were finally “home”.  Good times.

Item one. What God desires of us. During a between sessions conversation with one of our speakers this past week in Florida, the speaker, Bob Mumford said this about intimacy with the Father: The Father wants to see our face.  I have heard and studied much about our need to seek His face but this was the first time I had ever heard the idea that the Father desires to see my face.  Mumford’s point has to do with being free to let the Father see who we really are.  Most of us are too intimidated to let anyone see into the deep places of our hearts, let alone the Creator.  Guilt, shame, and self hatred cause us to run, hide and hope no one really sees or knows.  Deuteronomy 10:17 says God is “no respecter of persons”.  The Hebrew word translated “persons” is literally the word “mask”.  In other words the Father wants to go past the masks we put up and know us as we really are.  New birth into Christ allows us to see through the veil into the face of the Father but it also allows Him to see our face as well. That the Father of all Creation and my Abba wants to see past my mask and look me full in the face is both thrilling and chilling.  More on this subject another time.

Item two. Prayer for the week.  Grant that I, Lord may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly; and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (more here)

Item three.  Linda and I have a nearly 13 year friendship with an Amish family in Lancaster County, PA.  We have the loss of a son in common as well as a love for the Father.  We have made 3 trips to visit there and enjoyed real fellowship with their faith community.  We hope to go again in the next few months.  It was with that history that I found this article from the Religion News Service interesting.  Read it here.  I love these people and appreciate their commitment to faith, family and deeply held commitments to pacifism, disengagement from society and simple life philosophy, but I wonder what trends like the one in this article mean for their culture.  What happens if Amish people start thinking like evangelicals?  What happens if they decide they are supposed to reach out to other people with their Christian message? What does it mean to be “in the world, but not of the world” if you are Amish? What does evangelism and mission work look like? Perhaps one day soon David and I can discuss these subjects, until then I pray for wisdom for Amish leaders like my friend.

Item four.  The monthly letters that come from Jon Eldredge and his Ransomed Heart ministry are always good.  These last two years for Linda and me have been, in many ways, the best of times but they have also been the worst of times. It seems as though there is a regular purging of what was and a pushing toward what will be or what is.  I do not do purging well, perhaps no one does.  It is so deeply ingrained in me to want to live a happy little life.  I just want things to be good, to be with our kids and grandkids, to have something significant to do with my life, to have “plenty of money” and for things to just be nice.  In this months letter, Eldredge is making the point that we are much more inclinded to be upset when the gifts are taken away then we are when the Giver seems distant. We are far more upset when things go wrong than we ever are when we aren’t close to God. And so God must, from time to time, and sometimes insistently, disrupt our lives so that we release our grasping of life here and now.  Usually through pain.  God is asking us to let go of the things we love and have given our hearts to, so we can give our hearts ever more fully to Him.

It isn’t that God doesn’t want happiness for us, I think the Scriptures are quite clear that He does.  But what is more important to Him than our happiness is our holiness and He knows that we cannot be genuinely happy until we are authentically holy.  Until God has become our all, and we are fully His, we will continue to make idols of the good things He gives us.

 It is clear to me, after these past two years that I more often say during times of struggle, loss and purging, “why does God let this happen” than I say “Why am I not more fully given over to the Father and His desires for me?”

The philosopher and theologian, Blaise Pascal (find more quotes here) captured all this in one short burst of Spirit filled wisdom: There is no happiness except in God, and ourselves united with Him.

Have a great week united with Him.

September 17, 2007 at 10:43 am 2 comments

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