Tag Archives: journey

The Long and Winding Road*


With both apologies and gratitude to Sir Paul McCartney and his mates in the Beatles, the long and winding road is an apt description of the journey my family has been on for the past four years. What began as a somewhat uncertain yet anticipatory search for a Lead Pastor role melted into a desert meander through loss, death, grief, depression, questioning, doubting, and more. Yet milestone after faded milestone seemed to confirm two things: first, we were on the right path; and second, that path was leading to a pastoral role. Specifically where the path would lead was an unanswered question.

When God leads people on a journey, there’s always a purpose. Sometimes the purpose, or the path, or both, seems harsh, as with Jonah’s three days living as seafood or the ancient Israelites’ forty-year wilderness sojourn. Sometimes the purpose is simply to train, sometimes to discipline, sometimes to strengthen or transform. Sometimes God uses the journey to refresh and restore, as with Elijah after his battle-to-the-death with the prophets of Baal.

During our journey these past several years, God has been doing some hard work in my life, chiseling off rough edges, testing my commitment to his purpose, leading me from pride toward greater humility (a journey nowhere near complete). One of the most profound shifts I’ve seen in myself is a desire to love—really and simply love—whatever community he might call me to lead. That desire hasn’t always been there for me; so often, I’ve looked more at what I can change in a church than what I can love.

This weekend I stood before the congregation of a small, 150-year-old church in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. After my message (from Colossians 3:12-17), they were going to vote, as all good Baptists do, on whether it was God’s will for me to be their next pastor. With the ten new members being received that morning, the congregation stood at about 50 people – three-fourths of whom are over 65. I could count the children’s ministry on one hand…maybe with a finger to spare. The youth group was doubled in size by my daughter’s presence.

As we were getting ready for church that morning, my wife asked me what percentage I was looking for if we were to say yes to the church’s call. The number in my mind from the start had been 89%; I don’t know why, that’s just what came to my head and planted itself there. Eiley wondered if that was too high; What if it’s only 85%? Or 80?

The vote was overwhelming and humbling: unanimous! That is so unlike my past experience with churches, especially Baptist churches (my tribe). I have heard people say they always vote No just on principle! (I’m not sure what principle that is.) But this small body of hope-filled followers of Jesus is united in their desire to have me as their pastor and to lead them into the next phase of their life—of our life together.

And so, our journey takes a new turn. With a church called, ironically (and appropriately), The Journey. I wonder where this long and winding road will lead.


*Photo of Paul McCartney’s High Park Farm in Scotland copyright and owned by Stuart Brabbs. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:High_Park_Farm._-_geograph.org.uk_-_434107.jpg

Stones on the Journey


This is a synopsis of the message I preached yesterday at Cold Springs Church. It is based on Abram’s call and journey in Genesis 12. I see four “stones” on Abram’s journey:

The Stone of Separation: God’s call separates us from all that we find comfortable and familiar—from everything in which we find security apart from him. But he promises to replace our security with him: Abram was called to leave his country, but was promised a new land. He was called to leave his kindred, his community; but was promised a great nation. He was called to leave his father’s house, but was promised the presence of God. (Notice that this ties nicely into one way of looking at a theme throughout the Bible: that God creates a people, for a place, to enjoy his presence. We see that theme in creation, in the story of the people of Israel, and all the way to Revelation, as we see God gathering his people to a new heaven and new earth to enjoy his presence forever.) Where are you finding security apart from God?

The Stone of Promise: Sometimes God’s promises are unbelievable, impossible, or unimaginable. But that doesn’t keep us from trying to imagine how God will fulfill the promise—we just usually get it wrong! (Because, after all, “our thoughts are not God’s thoughts; nor are our ways his ways.”) What we need to cling to, though, is not the promise; we need to rely on the character of the promise-giver.

The Stone of Obedience: We want to obey God; we really do. We want to do God’s will, but we often hesitate in uncertainty; God has said Go, and we want to know where to go – or at least what direction. We are too often frozen into inaction by our very desire to do God’s will. But his will is sometimes simply, Go. And we need to obey the call…even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

The Stone of Remembrance: When Abram obeyed, he came to the place where God said he should be: “To your offspring I will give this land.” And there—where the Lord had appeared to him—Abram built an altar. Continuing on the journey, Abram built another altar to call on the name of the Lord. One line in the old hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” says, “here I raise my Ebenezer.” An Ebenezer is a stone of remembrance. We need those. Maybe it’s an actual stone; maybe it’s a memory; maybe a journal entry or a photo. However you remember, when God shows…remember. For me, May 28, 2009, is a stone of remembrance. On that day I prayed a very specific prayer that God answered very specifically and very immediately. God showed up, and that date is engraved in my mind.

Separation. Promise. Obedience. Remembrance. Stones along the journey of faith. It’s a journey with no road map, only milestones. But once you start on the journey, the risk – the adventure – will get into your blood and course through your veins and you’ll never again be satisfied with the comfortable, secure, risk-free life you once knew.