Forgiveness Is Possible

October 28, 2011

Forgiveness Is Possible

 I tried several ways to get in touch with an ‘old’ friend the last 10 days or so.

 I used Facebook.  I tried Linked-In.  I joined his blog site as a member.  I tried to connect by replying to a couple of posts he did on Twitter.

 I even tore though my old files attempting to locate my old personal telephone directory, and upon finding it, called his home number (hoping it had not been changed or disconnected or reassigned to another person) and left a voice mail with my name and cell number and prayed he might call back.

 From his posts on Twitter, web site and blog, I made comments, asked questions, and joined his blog. (InTheBeginningMinistries.blogspot.com)

 I knew that he had gone out of town for a week.  Both to a conference, to see family in Indiana, and to visit the Creation Museum in Ky.  But I had hopes he might call or respond via electronic media.

Tonight (10/27/11), he returned my call.

Getting the conversation started was hard.  Neither of us knew exactly where to begin.  I thanked him for calling me back; and he said part of it was due to his being a pastor now.

Bear in mind, among the posts he had done, one was regarding forgiveness.  And I took advantage of that post to let him know I was one seeking forgiveness (and reconciliation, if possible).  So when he called, part of the start to the conversation was that he felt my original apology from several years ago was either not enough or not meant sincerely… and he was struggling to overcome that feeling.

I immediately realized that one of the reasons we had drifted apart was my failure to follow-up and be sure he knew how sorry I was.  I won’t go into the details here, but I definitely did a wrong to him.  It caused him pain both personally and professionally, and probably led to his having to change jobs.

What he had to overcome and look at to forgive me was HUGE.  It wasn’t a small thing that you can then go back and say, “Oh, that’s okay… we’re friends and he’ll get over it.”  No, it was a cause of great discomfort to him (and as a result, probably his family) and caused me to lose my best friend.  The loss of this man’s trust has been an unbelievable blow to me.  (I still haven’t forgiven myself for this.)

A little background…

In the mid-to-late 70’s, I walked away from God.  I had suffered the loss of some close family members, gone through a divorce from my first wife, and was having major financial problems, and I needed something or someone to blame – you know it couldn’t be my fault or the choices and decisions I’d made.  No.  It must be God’s fault my life was turning to excrement.

And in a series of poor decisions, I managed to break and badly damage what had been an amazing friendship since the 8th grade.

Along with these other bad choices, I knew I desperately needed to escape both my situation and my location – so at the age of 26 I joined Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (you probably know it better as the U.S. Navy).

 Look out San Diego(boot camp),Groton,CT(submarine school), Dam Neck, VA (A and C schools),Norfolk,VA(USS Henry L. Stimson – Gold crew), Charleston, SC (shore rotation training), King’s Bay, GA (Stimson’s home port), Norfolk, VA (again – USNS Bowditch – a retasked special survey vessel), and  Port Canaveral, FL (USNS Range Sentinel) – as well as Rota, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, Andros Island, Bahamas, and a few other ports of call.  Yo-ho-yo-ho and a bottle of rum (no, I wasn’t drinking adult beverages, just singing pirate ditties).  A definite change of location(s).

 Then, one day at sea, God finally called me back to Jesus.

 Our ship, the USNS Bowditch, was going through some rough weather (unlike on the subs, we could simply go down a few hundred feet and ignore it).  Conversation turned to the ‘do you believe in God’ and then to “do you believe in Jesus?”  Usually I avoided these discussions, but for some reason (yeah, I know it was the Holy Spirit now too) this time I chimed in.

 I was asked why I believed in Jesus – and “because the Bible tells me so” was not going to be a sufficient response with this group.  In forming my answer, I fell back on my own personal experiences and while explaining my reasons for my faith (including ‘Lord, Liar, Lunatic’), realized I was beginning to practice apologetics (the defense of the faith).

 Suddenly, I’m back to reading the Word.  I’m starting to study again and find proofs to show why I believed in a living, caring, loving Father in heaven and what His Son means to me and wanting to share this with others.

 And others saw a change in me… a re-repentance, if you will.  I’d walked away from God and tried to do things my way and had screwed it up pretty good.  But Jesus called me back to Him and this time I knew He wasn’t promising me a life of ease and no conflict; He was simply saying that with Him, my burdens would never be too heavy and that He would carry me through when I couldn’t make it on my own.

 And that became sort of my reverse challenge to others when discussing God, Jesus and what it meant to be a Christian – I told people, “I’m sorry.  I don’t think you’re tough enough to be a Christian – it ain’t easy to walk that road; to change your worldview; you’ll probably just turn and run when the going gets too difficult (you know, like I did).”

But I also knew that God had forgiven me of my sins – all my sins – past, present and any I’d commit in the future — once and for always.

Which brings me back to the present and that returned phone call.

That we were able to go from a very rough start to our phone conversation to being able to say some of the things that needed to be said and wound up talking for 32 minutes (I know because I checked the timer on my cell phone).

I reached out over the last couple of weeks to try and reestablish a connection with someone who meant a great deal to me; who I loved like a brother.  And, praise God, he did respond.

Will this go any further than his forgiving me?  I don’t know.  I hope it does.  Can we rebuild some kind of a new friendship?  I certainly am praying it might be so.  Can I ever earn his full trust again?  Well, let’s take things as they say, one day at a time.

Forgiveness is possible.  And I thank Jesus for the example He was and what He preached about it.  And I thank my friend for forgiving me and his willingness to see where time and the Lord may take this new beginning.

I won’t embarrass him by naming names.  If he should read this post, he’ll know who I’m speaking to.

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Mission Statements

October 8, 2011

Mission Statement.  Vision Statement.  Every organization is supposed to have one – or both.

All week long, a meeting that was held with and for the volunteers at my church a week ago tomorrow has been rattling around in my head and in my heart.

I work nights and after only a couple of hours of sleep this morning, my mind would not stop rerunning the meeting and its significance to me.  Since “it” would not let me relax and clear my mind, I decided I had better get up and write this post.

Pastor Jeff (Burr) led this meeting of volunteers with a focus on sharing his, and the senior staff at church, “vision” for the near and not-so-near future of Crossroads Community Church.  One of the things introduced was a new logo for all the things that will be generated from CCC.  It will also include our Mission Statement.

Pastor Jeff expounded on how many organizations, both Christian and secular, private and public, big and small – all have a Mission Statement.  A paragraph or even a page or two of what the vision, or goals, or “mission” of the company and its employees is all about.

You know, “To serve the best customers in the world,” or “to make more money that God while making the customer feel good about giving us all his disposable income” (okay, it might not read exactly like that one).  But the point is there is usually a lot of flowery phrases that at the end of orientation are all but forgotten and “let’s move on to the next item on your training list.”

Oh, it will be posted on the bulletin board for all to see, right next to the notice regarding minimum wage, who your union rep might be, this year’s holiday schedule, and the next planned sexual harassment training course – no problem; I know how to do that without any special training.

If you were to go around and ask the employee, or even in most cases the management, what their mission state is, most would give you a blank stare, or at best a Reader’s Digest version of said statement.  Ask them what it means to them, and you would probably be back to the blank stare.

Pastor Jeff further explained that when coming up with the condensed, brief Mission Statement for Crossroads Community Church, he felt at first that it cheated us somehow by not being longer and more involved – oh, did I mention that the mission statement for Crossroadsis only four words?  That’s right, four words:  Celebrate.  Connect.  Serve.  Share.  Now that’s a mouthful of vocabulary, ain’t it?

It’s like Pastor Jeff had read “Orwell’s Rules for Writers.”

(1)  If it’s possible to cut out a word, cut it out;  (2) Never use a long word where a short one will do;  (3) Never use a passive when you can use an active (word);  (4) Avoid foreign and technical words;  (5) Never use a metaphor that you’ve seen it print; and (6) Break any of these rules to avoid something outlandish.

You’ll notice it this post that I’m not doing a real good job of following Orwell’s rules.  But that’s a post for another time.

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson

I like that.  Haven’t learned to apply it as well as I could, but as you can see from our Mission Statement, Pastor Jeff nailed it.

There are volumes of words and meaning summed up in each of those four words.

Celebrate.  This is mostly the Sunday worship experience.  It includes the usual standard church-formatted procedures:  greetings, prayer, “celebrating” in song and worship, a message by the pastor sharing what God has laid on his heart to bring to the congregation (in this we at Crossroads are truly blessed – from our current senior pastor (Jeff Burr), to the pastor ‘emeritus’ (Jeff’s father and previous senior pastor, Dan Burr), to guest pastors like Bob Orr and Steve Hays.)  Wow, that’s a lot of parentheses [ ( ) ] !!

Celebrate is not only a Sunday morning and/or Wednesday evening thing; it is an all week long frame of mind, hopefully dominating your thoughts and processes throughout the week as you further seek to be in celebration with God, your family and friends, your co-workers, and people you don’t even know but who see something “different” in you.

What?  Monday through Saturday others don’t know or can’t tell you’re a ‘Christian’?  They don’t see you in celebration?  You’re not singing songs about Jesus along with the CD player in your car?  We need to talk.

Which brings us to the second word in our Mission Statement:

Connect. Connecting is about much more than just being with others at church and asking, “How are you?” or “How was your week?”, and then not really paying attention to the answer, especially if the response is just a quick, “Oh, I’m doing good,” or “Hey, great, how about you?”

Connecting at church should help you know more about each other, more than a surface patina of shared intent (here to worship, tocelebrate), or just catching up on what each other has been doing since last Sunday’s get together.  Connecting is that act (remember, active, not passive) of really being in rapport with and wanting to be available to help, to serve (but that’s another Mission Statement word we’ll get to shortly), to know what’s happening in someone else’s life and not only being concerned with your own.

Connect also means to be reaching out to others beyond your church’s walls.  When was the last time you asked a friend to come attend church and worship with you?  Do you have friends at work that might be offended if you asked them to stop by a check out this awesome church you get to attend?  Take a risk – ask anyway.  You might be surprised to find out they’ve been wondering about where youcelebrate.

Pretty amazing, huh?  All that, and we’re only half way through the four word Mission Statement.  And what we’ve discussed so far does not even come close to covering all that Pastor Jeff shared about these two words.  And if you think about it, with an open mind and a prayerful heart, you would probably come up with dozens more reasons and explanations of what Celebrate and Connect mean to you.

Serve is the third word in our Mission Statement.  It also has many obvious and nuanced meanings.  It is, of course, serving our master and savior Jesus Christ.  At the heart of the matter, this is my ultimate purpose, to be here to serve my God, to be an ‘Ambassador for Christ’ as Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason says, to be available as told in 1 Peter 3:15 (look it up if you don’t remember), although that is also part of the 4th word in the Mission Statement.

But we not only serve God, we serve one another.  We serve fellow Christians, make ourselves available to our friends and co-workers, seek to be of service to anyone who needs our help, our support, our friendship – and we strive to do all this without thought of reward or enumeration.  Humbly.  Sometimes even sacrificially.  But to serve has no greater calling in the kingdom of God.

And finally, we discussed the fourth and last word of our Mission Statement.  Share.  This is again part of 1 Peter 3:15 (But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,…) Sharing is not only a command, a recommendation, it is the underlying premise of being a Christian, of seeking to fulfill the Great Commission, of wanting to tell everybody about the hope that is within you.

It’s not only about sharing with your friends and neighbors, but with the people at work, the stranger on the street (okay, I know that one’s hard), about mission work, both locally and world-wide.  “If you ain’t sharin’ then you ain’t carin’” is how my grandma would have expressed it.

So there you have it.  I just had to get up and put this to pen (or, if truth be told, to word processor).  Maybe now I lay back down and go to sleep.  I’ll only get about three hours if I’m lucky, then I have to (want to) get up and shave and shower and get ready for the 6PM southern gospel quartet concert Bonnie and I are going to (“Don’t you just love that gospel music?)

CELEBRATE.  CONNECT.  SERVE.  SHARE.

I hope (and pray) I’ve done justice to what Pastor Jeff had to say at the volunteer meeting; but this is what I got out of it and what it meant to me.


Sorry, I’ve Been Busy – Back to Barefoot Stuff

October 1, 2011

Sorry, but I’ve been really busy with my new site and have sort of neglected my barefoot blog.

In my quest to complete the AWAI online Accelerated Copywriter’s Program by the end of the year, as well as some additional training models, I’ve let my posting on barefootin’ slide for a few weeks.

For those of you that read this blog, you may remember that I have a goal to change my career path for next year.  I have always wanted to be able to respond when asked, “What do you do?” with the answer, “I’m a freelance copywriter.”

So that’s what I’ve been focusing my work on the last month or so, to the detriment of my other sites, including this one.  But this morning brought me back to it – I finished my shift (I work nights, generally from 9PM to 5AM), and during the night, had an opportunity to speak to some of the tenants and their guests about barefoot living.

To refresh your memory (and mine), I work as a “Courtesy Patrol” person – not a security guard, because as management as emphasized, we don’t ‘secure’ anything.  Basically, I Observe & Report for management of the property, a 200-unit apartment complex located in Claremont, CA near the Claremont colleges.  I walk through the complex, mostly on the street (an oval that runs around and through the apartments) and enforce the 24/7 parking by permit only rules.

If you park on our property, either as a resident or as a guest of one of the tenants, you must have a temporary parking permit or an authorized parking decal.  One gets the temp permit by calling the courtesy patrol person on the cell phone provided for that purpose.  All residents sign a form in their lease package that says they understand this rule… but it’s amazing how many people don’t read the things they sign or think the rule won’t apply to them.

Of course, after two warnings, one of 72 hours and a second and last one of 24 hours, when they have to pay the towing company $325.00 to get their vehicle back, they do become true believers.  I’ve officially been here in this job a year now, and no one has had to be reminded again once their car (or their friends’ car) has been towed.  But I digress.

After clocking in at 9:00 PM, I spoke briefly with the residents and their guests at the fireplace patio.  We have two large patio areas near the leasing office; one at the gated pool area and one by the outdoor fireplace, also near two BBQ set-ups.  After my second patrol round, I stopped and asked the tenants if they were planning to attend the October 15th “Fall Festival” meet and greet the apartment management was putting on; Taco Man catering the food, gifts and prizes for people who dress up (I know, it’s two weeks before Halloween), and candy for everyone.

When asked what costume I’d be wearing, I responded that my loincloth wouldn’t be back from the cleaners and my knife was still being sharpened at the cutlery shop, so coming as Tarzan this year was probably out.  But whatever I wore, I’d be barefoot.

This generated a couple of comments, among them, “Cool.”  and “Can I come barefoot too?”

I said of course, there’s no law against it.  And this then developed into conversations about wanting to go barefoot more often, where I’ve been barefoot, who let’s me shop barefoot and where I have to wear some kind of footwear, etc.

I explained that for the most part I tried to avoid places that would not let me shop or eat there barefoot, but for the few places I either had to go to or my wife insisted I attend with her, I kept a pair of flip-flops in the car.  I shared that Coco’s Bakery and Restaurant in Upland asked me to either get shod or leave (even though I’d eaten there barefoot a few times before).  I asked the shift manager who said this, “why?” and re responded with it’s a health code requirement.  My wife and I both – almost simultaneously – said, “No, it’s not.”  We explained there is no such provision in the health code for the entire state of California and while, it might be a company requirement, it was not a health department issue.

He back-pedaled and hemmed & hawed, but stood by his comment that I either put something on my feet or he would ask to leave the premises.  Not wanting to cause a scene, and because my wife really had her heart set on Eggs Benedict, I went out to the car and slipped on my flip-flops.  Needless to say, we will not be returning to that Coco’s for meals any time soon.

Just a couple of miles away, the Carrows Restaurant has never had a problem with my being barefoot.  The waitress one evening even called over the shift manager to check out my big toes – my wife got me a pedicure for our anniversary and I had the young lady who did my feet draw a palm tree on each big toe – they thought it was terrific and never once said or implied any disapproval of my being barefoot in their place.

I spoke with the tenants and their guests (turned out to be her sister and brother-in-law) some about barefooting, and they asked for more info.  No problem.  I provided them with three basic sites to start with:  PrimalFootAlliance dot org, Barefooters dot org, and of course, my own site, barefootchuck at wordpress dot com.  I also gave them my email address (barefootpilgrim13@gmail.com) and said if they had any other questions I might be able to answer or help with, if they did not catch me as I was making rounds throughout the night at work, to go ahead and email me.

So we’ll see each other again, and especially at the Fall Festival; although I will be barefoot, I still don’t know what I’ll be costumed as – but rest assured, with my physique, it ain’t gonna be Tarzan.