What Sowers Know #5

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What Sowers Know #5

Sowers must remember what they don’t know.

What might become of this seed?

Conjecture can cause hesitation or even lead the sower to give up on the soil.

It barely seems worth it.

The opposition is so strong and the weeds so thick.

The winds seem to scatter before the seed hits the ground.

Nothing will grow here.

The seed and time feel wasted.

Wait!

Who told you that?

The sower must remember what they don’t know.

This seed is from God.

Only God knows what will come of it.

A few fish could feed thousands.

Water can turn into wine.

Persecutors of Jesus often become grateful pursuers of Jesus.

Oaks of righteousness often grow in unexpected places.

And the God who knows has asked the sower to sow.

Right here.

Right now.

So sow, sower.

So serve, servant.

So teach, teacher.

So preach, preacher.

So lead, leader.

So pray, prayer warrior.

Sowers must remember what they don’t know.

What might become of this seed?

(Ecclesiastes 11:6)

What Sowers Know #4 There Will Be Tears

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What The Sower Knows #4

There will be tears.

Seeds are planted in sunshine but take root in darkness.

Some will never take root.

Sow anyway.

Sometimes tears will be the only moisture the seeds you’ve planted will know.

Let them fall and keep sowing.

Sometimes there will be divisive people following you attempting to dig up seed.

Wipe your tears and keep sowing.

Often you will sow into headwinds to a choir of critics.

Lean into the wind, ignore the critics, focus your heart, strengthen your resolve, and keep sowing.

Sometimes the soil just won’t accept the seed.

There’s nothing you can do about that; sow anyway.

I remember people who sowed into me though my heart was hard.

I can see their faces; my brother Bill, my sister, Lynn, my parents.

Others: Dale Campbell, Sister Harris, Jerry Short, Randy Hird, Mike Stipp, and many more.

Those names may mean nothing to you, but they mean everything to me.

If they had not been willing to sow in tears, they would not have been able to sow into me.

Who sowed through tears in you?

There will be tears.

Seeds are planted in sunshine but take root in darkness.

Some will never take root.

But some will.

I did.

Keep sowing.

(Psalm 126)

Interview with Carey Nieuwhof

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This is a couple of years old, but I just linked it to the website. The interview came about as a result of a brief conversation I had with Reggie Joiner around 2004. We took a group of leaders from the church in Ottawa (Now Crossbridge Community) to Northpoint in Atlanta for a Weekend at Northpoint conference. On Monday before we left we enjoyed a sit down along with about 30 other attendees with Reggie Joiner.

Reggie recognized 15 of us were from the same church and were committed to refocussing an 80 year old congregation. He smiled and asked "Does the pastor know you're here?" They laughed and pointed at me. "You know what you're doing is extremely difficult, right?," he asked. I shook my head and then bragged on the team who were present and on the church back home. We talked for a few minutes and then he said, "If you survive let me know."

The next few years were amazing at Ottawa. We grew, launched one of the first Nazarene video campuses in the midwest, participated in a couple of church plants, and brought the Peru campus onboard for a year of renewal sending several of our families over to join them.

Several times I tried to contact Reggie to no avail. A few years ago our Children's Pastor Evan Offut was taking a team to the Orange conference and at a staff meeting prior I said, “Hey, tell Reggie he owes me a conversation.” She returned with his private email address. (Thank you, Pastor Evan.) I sent him the story and he responded by referring me to Carey. Carey reached out to me and I thought my friends were playing a joke. It wasn’t a joke. Though I’ve never been comfortable with the title, the conversation may be helpful to those of you who are pastoring in small settings or just going through a rough time. Enjoy.

What Sowers Know #3 Till The Soil

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What Sowers Know #3

God has given you ground, a place and people to grow.

With the ground he has given you seed.

But please consider the soil before you plant.

A sower knows the soil must be prepared if the seed is to take root.

Tilling takes time.

Sometimes the soil with its weeds and rocks is stubborn.

The place you are assigned may be hard and dry.

But it’s where God has placed you and he wants to grow something or someone there.

He knows the potential you cannot see and isn’t overly concerned with your appraisal.

There will be weeds to pull and stones to unearth.

But earth is earth and hearts are hearts; both divinely created to be tilled.

Don’t give up.

Be curious about the soil and patient with the heart.

Sincere questions till the soil of a hard heart.

So do acts of service.

Kindness breaks up chunks of preconceived ideas.

Determined generosity destroys the appearance of greed.

Respect goes a long way in digging up rocks of condescension.

Transparency and humility kill weeds that would strangle what the seed would grow.

Plain old resilience softens soil sometimes.

The Holy Spirit is working in and on your ground.

As you till, watch for the place he opens in the soil of a human heart.

A question.

A request.

A tear.

A smile.

A confession.

A plea.

These might all be openings for you to plant the seed.

In the meantime, keep tilling.

God has given you ground, a people and place to grow.

What Sowers Know #2

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For all my friends out there who have committed to making a difference in their world. Recently, I’ve been thinking about (Psalm 126) and the concept of sowing seed in leadership throughout the Bible. These thoughts have led to a series of very short posts I hope will encourage and maybe challenge you. Sow on.

Put the hammer down.

This will be about sowing and reaping.

Not about triumphs and takeovers.  

Sudden breakthroughs are wonderful, but rare.

Enjoy the heck out of them when they come, but don’t get angry when the don’t.

Most of the time a seed planted takes root and small, sometimes invisible growth happens.

I know, I hate it too.

It’s why I’d rather build something than grow something.

Builders control growth, gardeners don’t control much except care of the soil and the seed.

I prefer to control, God prefers to grow.

I prefer a hammer to a garden rake any day.

Hammers are almost worthless in the garden except for building structures plants can grow on and fences to protect them from predators, at which point they are very necessary, but I digress.

Weeds have to be pulled not beaten to death.

At the end of the day churches and ministries aren’t built; they grow.

Think about it.

I have never led someone to Christ (breakthrough) who someone before me had not already significantly impacted (planted seed, watered, pulled a bunch of weeds.)

As a matter of fact, when they testify later, my friends often refer more to the former than the latter.

They say things about their conversion moment like, “I don’t remember what the preacher preached.”

Does that mean the sermon or teaching was without significance?

No.

It means what the sermon harvested was a seed someone long before had faithfully planted.

I’ve led multiple churches through more outreaches and evangelistic endeavors than I care to recount.

I dressed like Barney the Dinosaur once (In August) and chased children across a parking lot to tell them about Jesus and get their address so we could follow up.

I’d have paid you to hit me with a hammer that day.

I believe God honors our best efforts and we absolutely should give them, so keep working!

But manage your expectations and remember it’s about growing something instead of building something.

Seldom do things work out the way I thought they would, but they do work out.

Therefore, don’t get angry or frustrated with the soil or doubt the seed.

Let me rephrase that; WHEN you get angry or frustrated with the soil and doubt the seed…

Stop it!

This will be about sowing and reaping.

Not about triumphs and takeovers.

Put the hammer down.

(1 Corinthians 3:6-9)

What Sowers Know #1

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For all my friends out there who have committed to making a difference in their world. Recently, I’ve been thinking about (Psalm 126) and the concept of sowing seed in leadership throughout the Bible. These thoughts have led to a series of very short posts I hope will encourage and maybe challenge you. Sow on.

What Sowers Know #1

Human beings sow seed.  

Even when we don’t sow intentionally, we’re still sowing.

Leaving in the lives of those we encounter something taking on a life of its own.

Words, actions, looks, and even body language are planting tools. 

Some spread seed wisely, some foolishly, some selfishly.

Some think they are masters at disguising seed they seek to sow.

But what grows behind them betrays their intention.

Indeed, we reap what we sow.

Good seed or bad, human interactions spread seed. 

It’s a unique power God has given us to influence.

Surely the angels asked: “Why did God give such a sobering power to such a careless creation?”

But He did.  

What we say may be ruminated over when we’re no longer next in line.

A decision will be made to allow the thought, impression, doubt, fear, courage, idea, criticism, conjecture, affirmation, ignorance, knowledge, truth, lie, love, hate, discouragement, or joy to take root.

Sometimes hearts are too young or vulnerable to discern good seed from bad, and everything planted grows.

God, help me to plant wisely for I will be accountable for the fields I have planted.

May every sower look over their shoulder once in a while and consider what grows in their wake.

Human beings sow seed.

(Psalm 126, Matthew 12:36)

Bank It

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The enemy of your soul cannot stop you.

“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

“No weapons formed against you…” (Isaiah 54:17)

Etc.

But that DOES NOT mean you will succeed.

The one who cannot stop you will seek to stymie you.

The one who cannot defeat you will seek to demoralize you.

The one who cannot destroy you will attempt to drain you.

The one who cannot keep you will seek to distract you.

Until you quit.

The one who tempts you knows your temperature.

So, what will it take?

For you to abandon your mission?

Forget the calling?

Leave the dream in the middle of the desert you’re in and go home?

Just check out?

What will it take to take you out?

What straw will be the last one for your ego?

It’s fun to launch things.

It’s tough to lead things.

It’s really tough to finish things.

So what does the enemy need to whisper in your ear to get you to quit?

Do not be deceived.

A God-given dream never lies. (Habakkuk 2:1-3)

Reality will lie to you.

She begins with the truth; the way things are.

But then she draws her dismal conclusions in falsity;

“And this way they will always be.”

“This is the end of the story.”

But know this

It may take longer.

It may cost more.

It may look different.

But a God-given vision never lies.

Bank it.

Beware: The Word on the Street

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Have confidants. Have mentors watching you. Listen to sound advice. Question your motives. Do the work of self-awareness. But be wary of the word on the street. It’s a common phrase when someone wants to summarize what they and a few people around them think about your situation. If you let the word on the street, positive or negative, become your narrative, you are no longer the author of your story.

Jason Redman is a retired Navy Seal. His book: The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy Seal Officer, has hit me hard.

Even though a Seal Officer, for 13 years Redman had the gifts but not the graces to be a leader. By his own account he was arrogant and proud. After a couple of missteps that should have cost him his career, the word on the street was he was finished. A few key leaders, however, believed differently.

While picking up cigarette butts on an army base as part of his reforging, Redman had an awakening that changed his life.

Principle #1: Redemption is possible regardless of who you are, but you better wake up before it’s too late.

What follows is an amazing story of exactly that; redemption. As a result of the awakening, his attitude, his habits, and ultimately his life changed. Over time he earned the trust of his superiors and the soldiers entrusted to him. The story could end there and be a movie, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t because life seems to always have another ambush waiting around the corner.

In early September of 2007, Redmen led a team ambushed in a firefight. From less than 50 feet away a machine gun opened up. Three operators were stuck and he was one of them. One bullet shattered his left arm. Another entered his face just in front of his ear and exited his nose, essentially blowing out his face. All in all, he was hit with seven bullets; yet he survived. Word on the street was he wouldn’t, but he did. Survive, I mean, and much more.

His courageous story of comeback and victory is one every leader should read.

One of the keys to the life he enjoys now is a decision he made just days into his recovery and that decision is the point of this blog. His recovery included 37 surgeries, 1,500 stitches, 200 staples, 15 skin grafts, a tracheotomy, and probably still continues in one form or another to this very day.

He made the life-altering decision after hearing guests to his room talk about him when they didn’t know he could hear them. What he heard lit a fuse that ignited a new life. What he heard was pity. Pity, he knew, had one companion always at its side; self. Self-pity was not going to narrate Redman’s show. So he found some card-stock paper, a marker, and made a sign. Here’s the sign:

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To be clear, the phrase the word on the street are not, as much as I can remember, included in his book, but the concept is referenced over and over nonetheless. As I listened to Mr. Redman tell his story on the Jocko Willink podcast, I was moved. That podcast, linked below, will likely inspire you as it did me to read the book.

Do it.

Here’s why:

Principle #2: Every leader will face an ambush and their destiny will ultimately be decided by their response to it.

Whether it’s your own pride and ego, or a well hidden enemy determined to take you down, ambushes happen. Don’t give up.

Thank you, Jason for your service to our country and for sharing your story.

Peace.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-9) “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAo0wz91lt8

Weary of Drama?

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My granddaughter and I were playing in the basement. Her games and mine are vastly different. Chloe plays games that model life, so she likes playing life. I like playing fiction. In her games, we do stuff she watches adults actually do like go to the store, clean the house, play a board game, etc. In my games we fight dragons and bad guys. Don’t judge me, I’m a guy. And I’m old.

On this day Chloe wanted to play store. I was the cashier. She had a play shopping cart and browsed the toys in the basement before making her purchases. Then she came to my counter. I pretended to scan the items and accept her credit card for payment. She got in her plastic car and drove fifteen feet away where she lived. Afterward I said, “Now what do you want to play?” She said, “Let’s play store again.”

I was bored.

Me: “Okay, but this time, let’s add something.”

Chloe: “Like what?”

Me: “Like, let’s have a robber come in the store…”

Chloe: “No!” (She interrupted.) “No robbers.”

Me: “Okay, then let me add some potential purchases to your shopping list.”

Chloe: “Like what?”

Me: “Well, like these guns or these handcuffs.” (Lifting plastic toys left over from a violent era gone-by.)

Chloe: “Nope. No guns or handcuffs, Papa.” (Firm and with a bit of attitude.)

Me: “But Chloe, something exciting needs to happen!”

Chloe: “No Papa, we’re shopping. That’s exciting enough.”

(And with that she pretended to continue shopping our basement. A few moments later…)

Chloe: “Oh, look, some Play-Doh. That will be exciting.”

Me: “Whatever.”

(She came to check-out.)

Me: “Did you find everything okay?”

Chloe: “Yes, thank you.”

Me: “Would you like to buy some guns or handcuffs in case bad guys try to carjack you?”

Chloe: (Smiling and rolling her eyes.) “No Papa, we’re in your basement. No one is going to carjack me. I don’t even know what that is.” (Handing me her pretend payment card.)

Me: (Frowning and sighing) “Hmmmmmmmmm…”

Chloe: “What’s wrong?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to need to see some ID.”

Chloe: “What’s ID?”

Me: “ID stands for ‘identification.’ Like a Driver’s License.”

Chloe: “I don’t have one.”

Me: “Well then, I guess you’ll have to pay cash.”

Chloe: “I don’t have any cash.”

Me: “Sorry missy, no cash, no groceries.” (Pure satisfaction. Shaking my head and removing her items from the counter.)

Chloe: “Wait a minute.” (She ran over to her little desk and began to scribble on paper with a crayon and then returned proudly laying the papers in front of me.)

Me: “What’s this?”

Chloe: (With pride.) “It’s cash.”

Me: (Standing and holding the paper up to the light.) “Wait a minute!” (Pulling my plastic squirt gun from behind my back.) “Freeze, lady, you’re under arrest. Put your hands behind your back.”

Chloe: (Rolling her eyes again. Note: I get that a lot!!!) “What for?”

Me: (Snapping the plastic handcuffs in place) “Forgery, Ma’am. It’s a felony.”

Chloe: (Matter of factly, as I lead her off to jail with her hands behind her back.) “I am never shopping in this store again.”

Boy, do I love my granddaughter. #goodruleforlifechloe #andalittlechildshallleadthem

Moral of the Story: If people are looking for drama they will dig until they find it or create their own. It might be time to shop in a new store.

Life without Mom?

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On February 21, 2018, a moment I dreaded since I was old enough to dread and had any idea how the world worked, arrived. My mother died.

Hilda Imogene Wangler was ninety-one years old. Even though this photograph was taken 16 years before I was born, this is how I remember mom. The prettiest Mom in the neighborhood, and always beside Dad. He passed in 2009.

I was pondering on New Year’s Eve what it means to enter 2019 without Mom.

Like a rock she held things down in a storm. She was a foundation of faith her children built their lives on, and her husband knew he could depend upon. In difficult times we always knew there was a place to go, a listening ear, and a human being on the planet who loved us deeply and unconditionally. I for one, tested the unconditional part, and the ice never cracked.

Even as her body weakened her mind remained sharp. She endured what might have been her greatest tests of faith in the final years, but never wavered in Whose or who she was. She gave thanks before every meal including her final one. There is a hole in the Wangler family.

Strangely though, as I mulled the issue of continuing life without her, I realized something I’ve been wrestling with: I wasn’t.

She’s gone. Then again she isn’t.

I hear her voice at every crossroad and feel her love at every question. There is a calm that comes when fear falls I cannot explain. I can see her listening eyes when I think about a problem. I can hear her praying voice when I pause in my own prayers. She’s definitely present even though she isn’t.

In these moments, she is not coming to me as a spirit or a ghost. Not once. Doesn’t happen. She doesn’t appear to me as a butterfly floating near at just the right moment or a rainbow appearing in the sky on rainy days. It’s much more real than that.

I don’t pray to her for she cannot answer and she does not intercede for me before the Father. Jesus does that. I don’t pray for her, she’s crossed the finish line and doesn’t need my prayers.

And yet, she comes and I am strangely comforted. This New Year’s Eve, I wondered where this comfort comes from, and I think I know.

It comes from the place of a million memories, countless conversations, and boundless love. The seeds she planted over 57 years have sprouted. I am amazed.

“And by faith Able still speaks even though dead.”

(Hebrews11:4)

There you go. Now I know what that verse means.

Someday, when my physical voice is silent and my kids come to life’s thresholds without me, I want them to hear my voice, but I’m concerned about what they will hear?

Will they hear cynicism? Will they hear criticism? Will they hear my opinions about how wrong the world is? Will they hear me whine about the times life didn’t go my way? Will they remember listening eyes or condescending glares? Will they hear, “I told you so,” or “I love you so?” Will they hear a voice that directs them to the Father? Will they hear a voice of gratitude and humility, or pride and arrogance? What will they hear? Don’t get me wrong, I hear my Mother’s voice of correction and pause also, but I remember it as it was, full of grace and love. What will my children and grandchildren hear?

The truth is they will hear then what I say most now.

So, I’m asking God to help me do some serious planting in 2019. I think I need to pull up weeds and plant faith. My prayer is someday, hopefully a long time from now, one of my children will stand at a crossroad of faith or threshold of trial and hear my voice. In that moment, hopefully, by God’s grace, they will say to themselves, “That’s Dad’s faith talking.”

Though she is physically absent from this world, I do not enter 2019 without my Mother.

Hilda Wangler planted well. God give me grace to do the same.

Peace.