Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Story


I was raised in church.

Every Sunday we got up and went to church. I didn't always want to go but I went becasue Mom made me. It wasn't a choice I had. It didn't matter if I was tired, if I had stayed up too late or out too long I was in church sitting beside my family every week.

When I was in my early twenties the mother of a friend of mine called and asked if I would consider coming to church with them. It would allow them to start a sunday school class for young adults. The added bonus was her son and my friend didn't attend as regularly as they would have liked so having this class and his friend there they figured couldn't hurt.

I agreed and started attending that church.  This was my first real break from going to church with my family.  Mom couldn't complain becasue I was still in church which was perfect.

I met Linda at that church in Jan 2000, our first date was Feb 11, 2000 and we were married in July of that year.  When you know you know.

The church we were attending together imploded and pretty much disbanded.  They had lost a preacher and decided it was cheaper to just watch a televised church service or have a deacon speak rather than find a new Pastor.  

So then we were kinda in the wind.  We started attending church with my mom and sisters again way out in the country.

For a long time starting when I was in my late teens I thought about preaching. I just felt like it was something I was supposed to do. I fought hard against it and I out ran God for several years. Turned out he wasn’t even chasing me he was waiting at the end for me to catch up.

So one Sunday I took a drive to that old country church and I went inside, the doors were not locked for some reason and I stood in the building and it was there and then I surrendered to preach.  

I told my wife and she surprised my saying that she knew she would marry a preacher so it was no shock to her.
I went and talked to my friend and soon to be mentor about my call and it seems that he knew about it too.  He said that he knew God was working on me and he knew what my call was.  

So at the first chance I got which was an association meeting I got up with my Bible and with nothing prepared at all I preached for a solid 6 minutes.

I left that building crushed.  I was so sad, here I was called to preach and I am terrible at it.
Several of the older preachers talked to me and helped me thru that night.  Very supportive to my problem at that point.  

I didn’t give up I got into the word and opportunities to preach in various churches presented themselves so I went.
For about 6 months I was preaching somewhere different almost every week.  If I didn’t have a place to be on a Sunday night I would preach the evening service at my home church.

Soon after I had a falling out with the association I was in.

Looking back on it I think they made some poor choices and I overreacted. I was young and it felt a righteous indignation and didn't hand the whole thing as well as I could have. Especially with the tools I have picked up from Kelly over the years.
Still there I was and I was out.

That was all I knew. I was raised that denomination and that was how I identified myself. 

I was unofficially black balled. I was heartbroken.  We have all used that phrase before but my heart was broken it didn’t work like it was supposed to anymore.
I went form an outgoing guy that chatted up strangers everywhere I went. To not leaving my house unless I had to.  I didn’t trust people. Especially Christians.

I was embarrassed, I made this bold claim that I had been called to preach and now I couldn’t.  I had no place to preach and further more I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to be around these people who had heard me preach and then have to explain to them why I wasn’t doing it.  Or worse the looks that I thought I was getting which were probably just imagined.
I was hurt, I lost my support group.

I was mad, I felt abandoned by the people I most wanted to fit in with. I felt my peers had weighed and measured me and found me wanting.

That’s when the real running began. I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to find a place to preach.  I was supposed to keep at it.  I didn’t want to.

So for years I found reasons not to go. I managed the local theatre for 4 years.  I made the schedule so sure enough I was working every Sunday.

If I did have a Sunday off I desperately tried to find a reason to miss.

I tried it all. This went on for years.

We started attending church with my Mom again and I didn’t want to be there. 

One day I get an email from Kelly. I’ve known Kelly for most of my life.  I can’t remember a time I didn’t know Kelly. Anyway, Kelly wanted me to swing by his church and talk to him.  I went because I didn’t have a good excuse and he had some art work for me to do.

I went and talked to him and that first meeting I felt the pilot light come on in my heart.  I’d go from super excited one day and ready to rededicate to Sat night when I’d desperately try to think of a way out of having to go to church the next day.

I've told the story several times but I can't help but repeat it here.  I went so far as to sabotage my wife's car morre than once.  I would wait until evreyone was asleep. Sneak out and disconnect her battery.  The next morning she would wake me fo church. I'd get up get dressed and we would load the kids into the car.  When it didn't start she would take the kids back into the house and I would piddle on my phone and kill time til it was too late then we reconnect it. Tell her I fixed it and get brownie points for both fixing it and for getting up to go to church with them.

It went that way for about a year. I did art for the church I was asked to join the creative team. I was asked at the first CT meeting I went to if I wanted to go with the team to Dallas to a conference in Feb.  I answered yes really quickly which I think surprised even me.
I was still in my shell but I figured I had months to think up an excuse or they might just forget.  Best case scenario I could give my seat at the conference to someone else and not only would I not have to go but I’d look pretty good giving up the opportunity to someone else.
as far as the team were concerned I was a member but I didn’t talk to any of them. Poor Mindy, was very talkative that first meeting and I found it intimidating.  Then when I saw her at regular church I did the whole head now “sup” move and she didn’t respond so I was positive at that point that she hated me and was plotting my undoing.  
Turns out her and her family work their tails off at the church and she genuinely didn’t notice my gesture. Which in my mind was a super kind and inviting call to friendship but was actually more like a barely noticeable nod whilst i pulled my boy the length of the church to the side door so I could leave without having to actually talk.

Over the course of the next few months I still missed every chance I could. Lin would take the kids. I sent them a lot like that. I knew they needed it like I needed it growing up but I couldn’t provide it.
My foundation wasn’t firm enough to support more than one structure and my structure wasn’t the best built.

So for a year I hid.  I lived and died in the the time from right after service Sunday (if I was there) to the time Sat night when I tried to figure out how to get out of going.

I tried to think of a way out of the trip but as it got closer I got more and more worried about trying to cancel.

Kelly and the few people I talked to there when I wasn’t slinking out the door halfway thru the prayer were telling me they wanted me to go.

Honestly I ran out of time to cancel and I had a rough couple days leading up to it.  I was committed to going.  I had a few anxiety attacks and almost passed out thinking about the trip but I was stuck.
I arrived at the church the morning of the trip and my worst fear was realized. I HAD TO RIDE TO TEXAS WITH STRANGERS!!!!!

Turned out to be the most fun I have EVER had in a vehicle.

The first day of the conference was rough. I didn't want to be around all those hypocrites. I was sitting in my chair and watching people raising their hands and crying durring worship.  I heard people laughing at "Pastor Jokes" which I did not find funny at all.
I was pretty miserable. Mostly though I think I was jealous.  I didn't recognize it at the time. 
I was so focused on everyone else and how fake I thought they were that I didn't think about how my cynicism reflected what was wrong with me. My distrust and hurt was being transferred to these people that I just assumed were faking.

That evening we went back to the hotel. We sat around and talked about what we had learned that day. As soon as it was over I made a bee line for my room.  I was sharing with Graham and because I snore at a staggering level I like to give anyone I room with a 45 minute head start from the time they decide to sleep and when I turn off my phone or tablet and try to sleep myself.
Finally the time came and I turned off the lights. I was laying there in the quietest room I can remember ever being in. Graham sleeps as silent as the night. To the point I worried about him a couple times. 
So there I was in the complete dark alone with my thought. I began thinking about how much fun everyone else was having on this trip.  How they all were lost in worship or in the speakers completely.
It was then that I prayed a simple small prayer. I just asked if just tomorrow, just once God would allow me to enjoy the service like everyone else.  I wanted that experience once.

The next day I woke up, showered and we all went to the conference. I didn't feel different at all. 

We got to the venue and found our seats. I wasn't thinking about last nights prayer. I was there and still bitter and uncomfortable. 
Then the house lights went off.  Everyone got dead silent....... suddenly the music and the stage light came on simutaneouldy and God like a wave washed over me.

I have no way to describe it. I was in tears I was genuinely worshiping. Maybe for the first time in my life. 

Over that day and the next, I openly cried, I shouted, I amen’d a lot and I laughed.  I got so happy at one point I was laughing during a pretty intense sermon.  I started to worry people would think I was mocking the preacher.  I was just filled with a joy I had NEVER had before.

When we got back I started helping out. I showed up that Sunday at 8am. I just pretty much stood around and then greeted with Dave Hutton at the door.

No one asked me to. no one was counting on me being there. I just showed up and plugged myself in. That has been the best decision i have ever made.

I decided to serve and God gave em a whole lot more. He flipped the switch on my faith from off to on.
The faith was always there I just hadn’t activated it because I didn’t know that was my job.  I just thought eventually God would get a hold of me and I’d feel the way I do now without actually having to try.
Faith without works is truly dead. I’m living proof. God always took care of us I always believed in him but it wasn’t until I started working for him that i got the joy and the peace you are told about as a Christian your whole life.

I was basically a hermit, I avoided people, shopped at night to sidestep run ins. Now I go looking for brothers and sisters when I’m at the store or out and about. I look forward to every chance I get to attend and serve at church. 
I can’t stress enough this next part. For most my life I have told people that I don’t form connections with people like regular people do.  I looked at it as a good thing.  I had the ability to cut people off 100% and never miss them at all.  I just cared about my wife, kids mom and sister. 
I just don’t connect, I can chat and I can be reasonably charming but I don’t really click.
That changed last Feb.  I know it sounds weird but I love the people at my church like family. I find myself on facebook more than i ever have been just so I can see how they are doing. I look forward to a chance to see them all. I notice when regulars are missing and i genuinely worry about them.
I’m not the man that begrudgingly walked thru those doors a little over a year ago.

So thats it, I’m actively in the game. There is still tons of room for growth. I don’t have a hunger for the Bible I wish I had. I read it and I get a lot from it but I’ve always wanted that insatiable hunger for it that I have heard about.  Thats coming someday, I have faith in that.

If you read this and honestly I wouldn’t have, I only have the attentions span for a page or so before I start skimming. However if you did read this I hope you found something helpfull in it.  

I hope you decide to give service a try. Most of all I hope I get to see you at church so I can serve you.

Update 9/15/2014

Since I started this new chapter back in Feb of 2013, after the big rededication I’ve been plugging away.

I still greet every Sunday. I’ve only missed 2 Sunday services in the last 2 years. 

I got to go again to C3 with plans to attend in 2015 already solidified.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the last couple years.  I’ve had my eyes opened on several occasions and my ingrained theology questioned and corrected in cases. 

I’m still not  positive where I am supposed to be as far as ministry goes. I am decent at teaching the kids as I currently do k-3rd at the second service.  However I’m better at telling the Bible stories myself I feel atlas then teaching a “curriculum”. Could be just because I never had to really do it.  When I preached it was what God gave me to say and a couple times I’ve had that experience in my class but mainly its just saying what the paper says to say.  I love the interaction with the kids as I do the teens.  

I feel like sometimes I decide for God what I should do. I see a hole and I fill it. I get blessed by serving and then maybe I take that to mean thats where I’m supposed to be.  I pray about that a lot.

Recently where I thought I was supposed to be turned out not to be where others thought and then of course you start questioning your decision. Was it a calling or was it just a problem you see needs fixing and you decide to fix it.  Once I got the confirmation from God that thats a place that needed me maybe I read to much into it because after it was kinda brushed aside I feel distant from that particular field of ministry.  Kinda cut off from the excitement I had for it.  Still trying to figure that out. Have I been relieved of that calling if it was one or am I just kinda down from being restrained.  I don’t know and that weighs on me too.  

The one constant has been service. I still serve as much as possible. I volunteer 2 hours a day at church Monday- Thursday. At first it was to help out because Graham was covering for his Dad who had a stroke. Graham is the holy guts of the office. He does a ton of stuff that people that are not there everyday have no clue about.
So I started filling in for him. That was in January of 2014 and I’ve just been going in ever since.  It’s honestly been the best thing for me I could imagine. It helps me get rid of the artist hours I used to keep. Now I have to be there by 9 am so no more sleeping til noon and staying up til 4am.

I’t amazing and I am super thankful that they put up with me every day.

While I’m there I work on art or any assignments I’m sent. Whether its research for a decision the church is going to make or helping Jeremy set up tables on Wednesday its just fun to be there doing something to help out LifePoint.

I guess since I started this blog back in 2013 it was prior to Hati which was where I got the original vision to take the teens on a mission trip to New Mexico.
That vision got me involved with our teens which is an incredibly rewarding area of service as well. 
I’ve been doing that since August of 2013.   I’ve gotten ver close to my fellow youth sponsors, or volunteers or whatever you want to call them.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time connecting people to other people planning activities for the church. Which started almost selfishly because I love movie and I love so many of the people that I attend church with I wanted to combine the two and start going to movies with them.

That was fun so we started a weekly Volleyball night that spread into 2 competitive teams that one of which clenched the YMCA league title last year.

I just like hanging out with you all and I am constantly on the look out with new ways to trick you people into hanging out with me.

Now I’m helping plan the mission trip to Haiti for next summer. My second trip. I want to eventually go to Ethiopia as well but that is about double the price and It will take an actual act of God to get me there. However that is exactly how he pulled off the first trip to Haiti.
The price of the trip was set and I wanted to go but knew we couldn’t afford it.  So that year when we did out taxes God gave us the same amount we usually get plus exactly the amount over that was needed for the trip.

I feel I’ve definitely become a better father and husband since Feb of 2013 when God changed my life.  
I know I pray more and read my Bible more for sure.

I guess the next big thing happening is this Leadership Academy. Which is what spurred my updating of this particular blog post.  I am going to take some classes at LifePoint because I really want to learn this stuff and write more of Gods word on my heart and secondly because the end game is getting ordained and eventually being able to better and more effectively tell others about Jesus. Not just what he has done for me but what he has done for others thru history.

I honestly don’t see myself leaving LifePoint ever. I want it to be my home church and my kids home church, eventually my grand kids home church.I think thats a pretty decent and achievable goal. I know with more knowledge and more tools God will expect more of me as far as spreading the word. Fortunately we go to a church where we care more about the first chair than the last so we will ALWAYS have an influx of people to share him with and I’ll actively be trying to bring more in myself. Whether its the Gospel or the community that baits the hook its service that sets it and I will never cease to serve.

Update 4/25/16

The last update was over a year and a half ago. It was written as part of my testimony to join LifePoint's Leadership Academy.   Since then, I have come on staff full time as connections pastor. I still do all the art, I work with the youth and I'm licensed.  God willing I will be ordained in 2017.

It's been a crazy few years thats for sure but I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Still can't imagine going anywhere but LifePoint.

At your service

Alan

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