Pathway Blog

Anger and Control

May 10, 2021

If I’m honest, most of my anger is ultimately aimed at God. I’m not as angry at you as I am at God for allowing you to be a jerk. I’m not as mad at my mean boss as I am at God for not nuking him. My anger over my current situation comes from a notion that God could have done better.
As loving as God is, we still want things he’s not willing to provide. What he withholds he does for our good. But we don’t see it that way. So we haul him into court to press charges: “God, you’re not doing your job.”
When we can’t make these charges stick, we take matters into our own hands. Let me handle the jerks in my life … give the boss a piece of my mind. We can’t resist control, from the big stuff down to arranging the pencils on our desk.
See the wreckage in our future?
For starters, none of us are equipped to control our lives. We lack the skills, the emotional stability and the energy. Plus, we have mixed motives. The rain we would have fall on our garden would flood out our neighbor. The food we would stockpile for our kids would deprive the hungry family across town.
What’s more, me being boss turns the universe on its head. Now, it’s as if God works for me. I’m the deity in my story. People aren’t so much my friends and family. They’re pawns I move about the board to suit my purposes.
This is our story. We don’t get many years under our belts before we start mistrusting God. He’s either tardy, apathetic or misdirected. We’d all agree he has what it takes to control. It just feels like he’s not seizing the moment. So we get mad at him for not managing things as well as we would if we were God.
I can only carry on this way for so long before it runs me off in the ditch, which makes me feel confused and powerless. Either I try harder, get madder and leave more wounded on the side of the road. Or, I surrender my grip on the wheel and let someone more qualified drive the bus.
The Psalms are a good place to go with this. David spoke out his anger at not being in control. He hated it when the wicked prospered. He told God how he’d like to “adjust” them, which could get quite graphic. But he was honest … and in the end, humble. This is it! We tell God what we’d do if we were in his shoes and then acknowledge he’s the only one qualified to fill those shoes.

Anger and Expectations

May 3, 2021

There are Christmas expectations: “I hope Santa gives me what I asked for.” Traumatic expectations: “This is gonna hurt.” Daily expectations: “That dog will bark at me when I run by. ”Unreasonable expectations: “I’ll win the lottery.”
Expectations come in all shapes and sizes. I can dread the worst. I can look forward to the best. Life is a continuous string of expectations and would be short-lived and painful without them. I expect gravity to prevail if I unwisely walk off a cliff. I expect the food I eat will sustain me. I expect to get burned if I touch the flame. I expect to feel love when we hug.
To NOT get what we expect, now there’s the bind. Promotion denied. Agreement reversed. Good deed unappreciated. Hopeful outcome of a medical test shattered. These can go sad. More often they go mad.
There’s a buildup of pressure with all this. It’s called anticipation. How do we release that pressure when we don’t get what we want … yell at the spouse and kids, slam doors, pull out the sarcasm? Anger is the intensive reaction to unmet expectations.
All of this is common to who we are. So, what do we do with it? Do we stop expecting altogether? That would slice off part of what it means to be human. Do we push harder and yell louder? This would be a reaction, not a solution.
What if unmet expectations aren’t just giant potholes on life’s highway? What if they’re crossroads? Like when we don’t get what we want, we have a chance to choose between anger and creative options? Who can calculate how much better life is today because imaginative minds were challenged to come up with a plan “B”?
Talk about unmet expectations … look what we’ve done to God. Yet, all down through our history of letting him down, he’s always come up with innovative, gracious responses. He’d be in his rights to go the angry route. But he doesn’t, which lets us know up front that anger is not our only option.
One more thought … if I struggle with anger over unmet expectations, isn’t it likely that what I’m expecting is self-serving? Maybe one solution for chronic anger would be to invest myself in something other than my own wants and wishes … like the person in front of me.

Anger and Fear

April 26, 2021

Fear is one of those primal emotions, essential to our early survival. There were large hungry animals roaming the neighborhood with plans to eat us for lunch. Senses were kept on high alert to insure that didn’t happen. Fear was the natural reaction any time we felt we were on the menu.
There are two exits in the fear room. One is marked “hide in here.” The other is “fight back.” Thing is, nobody gingerly opens either door. In our panic, whichever one we choose, we bust it wide open. So when we hit the fight door, our driver is typically anger and it is rarely calculated or under control.
This two-sided coin of fear and anger shouldn’t be hidden away in shame. Simply embrace it as part of the currency of human emotion. Let’s talk about it.
Fear-driven anger is sometimes nothing more than self-defense. As in, you beat on a metal pan to keep the prowling bear from getting any closer. He’s like the guy at work who has disrupted or threatened your day. You have no desire to hurt him, so your push-back is just enough to get him to leave you alone.
Then there’s pedal to the metal anger that wants to eliminate the threat. It doesn’t beat on a metal pan. It throws it with intent. The word “rage” works here. Some call it hate. It is often motivated by insane levels of fear. Maybe hyper-acute panic. Maybe chronic paranoia … long standing unsettled spirit.
People prone toward anger create a persona that intimidates. They seem “bigger” than average, maybe even stronger or more courageous than most. In time, they learn to use this to their advantage. Hit first, so the other guy will back down before he realizes just how frightened you are.
There are appropriate times to be angry: when you see exploitation, injustice, abuse etc. Anger, in itself, is not unhealthy. There are times when it’s the healthiest emotional response. A lack of anger might even indicate un-health.
But, nobody’s going to defend chronic, aggressive, raging anger as a healthy expression. It’s not cool. It’s not courageous. It’s actually little more than brazen bravado, like a loud-mouthed, puffed-up Chihuahua trying to pull off his best Doberman impression.
We’re going to dig deeper into this anger thing in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s do a soul search to see where we are with it personally.

Focus

April 19, 2021

Back in my Seminary days spiritual disciplines began trending. They mostly involved prayer, fasting, bible study, stewardship etc. The list was short. Today, a quick online search reveals we’re currently up to twelve.
These disciplines were meant to help a person focus. Eyes on the prize of spiritual excellence. Stay on course. Position oneself to be a worthy recipient of grace. This was a plan I could tackle with gusto.
I recall diving in with my prayer journal and high-lighted verses. There was a “runner’s high” at first. Wow, who knew I could be such a faithful disciple of Christ! In those days, I recall encouraging others to be disciplined like me.
Then, life happened. Like sitting in a car with a grizzled Vietnam vet as he declared I wasn’t worth what the church paid me. Or the fledgling congregation I served getting kicked out of its rental space. Or like moving to a new church in a new state with our baby girl only to watch my wife die of terminal breast cancer. Or the pain of realizing my time was up at a church I’d pastored 16 years, then moving my family to Bowling Green with no job, no home and very little money.
For 25 years I’d maintained my disciplines. They hadn’t maintained me. I felt alone, unloved and helpless against my habits and hang-ups. Inside I was a mess: angry, afraid, depressed, envious, bitter … etc. I wasn’t the husband or father I wanted to be. Professionally and personally I felt like a failure.
Then my wife and I stumbled into a faith-based recovery ministry. Neither of us were addicts or alcoholics; just bleeding out. Fast-forward a few years. It was in this same recovery community I first experienced God’s love for me. I knew, that I knew, that I knew. Everything changed. Hope and healing took hold.
Life became focused. Except this time it wasn’t on my disciplines. It was on the God who loves me. The same people, places and things I’d always had were still in my life. Only now, I was seeing God in all of it … where he’d been all along. All those years, my focus on disciplines had caused me to look right past him.
God’s love and presence are not rare or illusive. He’s always with each of us. So if we want to be disciplined, maybe we should devote ourselves to focus on all the ways he reveals himself in a 24 hour day.

Hate-Speak in Jesus’ Name

April 12, 2021

I don’t feel safe around people who speak hatefully. Everything inside me wants to run and hide. And if I can’t find the exit, I retreat into my private head-space. If hate-speak doesn’t trouble you, I want to know your secret.
In recent years it has become fashionable to verbally cut people to pieces. Social media is driven by it, and much of it is carried out in the name of Jesus. From deep inside I have hard push-back against this. I just don’t get it. How can you disrespect others in Jesus’ name?
Forget subtlety. It’s in your face. Christianity has beaten its plowshares into swords: “We have the answers, and should be the ones controlling the culture. Obviously, our rights take priority over yours. We are the keepers of the truth, which gives us license to speak in condescending (hateful) tones about you and your kind. And ,just so you’ll know, you’re an idiot if you don’t agree.”
I don’t want to argue good and bad Christianity. But, all this finger pointing about what is sin or not sin and who is in and who is out …where is the grace? These are nothing more than accelerants fueling the fires of Christian hate-speak. If this is what we’re calling “the good news,” I’m not interested.
If anyone was ever sinless and had firsthand knowledge about heaven and hell, it was Jesus. Yet, the only time he resorted to harsh tones was when dealing with arrogant, self-righteous church leaders. Watch him with hookers, tax collectors and street-level sinners. He invited and embraced.
We walk toward what we’re focused on. This is truth. If I’m all about being right or proving my point, I take up arms and march toward whatever battle line I feel is “under attack.” If I’m looking to bring hope and healing, I focus on the person in front of me. If they’re lonely, I listen. If they’re hungry, I feed them. If they’re naked, I clothe them. And if they want to know why, I tell them.
Some may say we’re splitting hairs here. The proof is in the side effects. A Christianity that rails against what it considers to be wrong, unintentionally becomes obsessed with policing others. A Christianity that presses into being helpful, unintentionally becomes possessed by love.

Running Wide Open

April 5, 2021

Most of you know I’m a recovery pastor in a ministry called Pathway. Like the rest of the planet, this nasty COVID has messed us up for over a year. Last night was our first night to be back in our “place” in the building … The Cup. It felt like home, so we treated it as such with an informal “family” discussion.
The focus question went something like: What does it look like to run wide open with God’s love? Rephrased … describe that sweet spot when you know down deep you’re loved by the Father.
(As the Pathway ministry at Broadway UMC has matured over the past 16 years, one core value has solidified. Hope and healing rush in when a person has that ah-ha moment that they are adored by their Father. We call it magic, ’cause that’s what it feels like to be in the same room when the realization takes place.)
So, here we were back in our familiar spot, relaxed and sharing our hearts. Some talked about experiencing God’s love in bits and pieces rather than a constant flow. Others shared about the toxic voices from their past that pulled them back toward the notion that God’s love must be earned. One mentioned a certain yearly event where they felt God’s love more keenly. Of course, a common place was out in nature.
Then a father of a toddler started to describe a recent walk he’d taken with his little boy in the woods. Every other step there was a new rock or a stick or flower.
Our young dad said it was one of the best times they’d ever had together and it all happened at “wide open” speeds of 8 feet per hour.
This was it. His little boy was both aware and fascinated with what we would routinely pass by or call mundane and insignificant. From a toddler we learn that running wide open with God’s love has nothing to do with speed or earth shaking events. It’s about awareness. God’s always there. Do we see him?
We can’t overlook the other player in this event. Dad was having the time of his life. It wasn’t the rocks or sticks or flowers. It was our young father getting caught up in the joy these little items brought to his son.
Put yourself in God’s shoes. He started the whole thing walking with his naked kids in the woods and he enjoyed it enough to show up every day. No agenda. No right or wrong way to do it. Just walk. Hmm?

Mom

March 29, 2021

We went over a year without seeing Mom. She’s in a healthcare facility across the state that was locked down due to the plague. We were able to talk on the phone and message, but nothing face to face.
Mom’s been bed-fast since before COVID. If it weren’t for her caregivers, she wouldn’t have survived these past 12 months. But they’re not family. I wondered how she’d be after a whole year of zero contact with her offspring.
A few days ago we went to see her. It was rich. Each moment counted. Every word meant more than usual. She actually looked more healthy than the last time we’d seen her. Pretty amazing.
We talked around the world … old times, family lineage, current affairs, daily routines, nursing home cuisine etc. What captured me was hearing about her connection with the aids and nurses who care for her. She doesn’t just know their names, she knows the names of their children.
Come to find out, she makes it her daily agenda to ask them questions about back-stories, likes and dislikes, concerns and worries. And in her 90’s she still remembers details so she can bring them up later. These oft underpaid hard workers know somebody cares about them up on the second floor.
Mom has several sayings she tries to live by: “God is silently planning for you in love.” … and … “Bloom where you’re planted.” A long and challenging life, which included raising five children, has ultimately “planted” her on her back in a hospital bed in a room at the end of the hall. But she’s not finished yet. She’s living out her own words, “You’re never too old to learn.”
One more thing … my mom has always been a private, rather independent person; slow to ask for help. Now, it’s her only option. I can only guess how hard that transition was for her. But it speaks volumes about the inner capacity of humans to deepen and expand if we’re willing.
If you currently have the world by the tale, enjoy the fleeting moments. At one point or another, we’ve all been ten feet tall and bullet-proof. But life marches on, through pandemics, arthritis, empty pockets and old age. One thing remains a constant. We are relentlessly loved by the Father and we can always find new ways to pass that love along to the person in front of us.

The Book

March 22, 2021

No one would claim this story, traditionally called the prodigal son, makes a definitive statement about scripture. But what if we let it? To begin with, let’s look at where we are with the good book today.
Most churches treat the bible as a policy and procedure manual. Leaders sift through, then collectively pick out parts that support their prescribed etiquette and protocol. Thus they can claim their core beliefs are in the book, meaning they have chapter and verse to back up what they believe and how they live.
This has become the basis for being un-friended by church. Break protocol by believing the wrong thing or misbehaving (kinda like these two sons) and they’ll show you the door. Something’s not right, ’cause neither son got kicked out by the father. Either we’re doing church incorrectly, or the father messed up.
If the family business here is the church, the good Father is the brilliant center. His business flourished, not so much outside the law, but by a higher law of love. Exploitative misbehavior was met with generosity and hugs. Anger received an open, empathetic ear. He left them room to explore and self-correct.
Neither son was asked to conform to rules from a book. Instead, the Father allowed both space to discover who they were and how they wanted to relate to him and each other. Dad just kept pressing in with love, all the way through broken rules, juvenile selfishness and ridiculous accusations.
What if this story is the bible in capsule form? Like, if we get this, we’ll get the big story as well.
It is reasonable for a Dad to set limits and boundaries for his boys when they were little, like God did in the O.T. Then in the N.T. invite them to discover how to relate to him as grownups like in this story we’ve been digging into.
Some claim it weakens or disrespects scripture to call it a story of a Father and his kids. Like, we need teeth/rules to keep us in line. But what if this story told by Jesus so many years ago was our invitation to mature into a more adult-to-adult relationship with the Father.
The good Father in this story is one of Jesus’ most vivid portrayals of love. Whichever adult son you identify with, be grateful your Dad has known you since childhood and is continually loving you to a better place.

Awkward Conversations

March 15, 2021

We’ve been watching a Dad in relentless pursuit of his sons. He scans the horizon so he’ll be ready to run to meet his wandering son. He leaves the party to head outside and try to tap into the heart of his working son. In both cases he takes the initiative, knowing the conversations will get painfully awkward.
What if we explore these encounters in the context of prayer?
Wandering Son starts out with an audacious prayer for his piece of the family pie. When he wastes the proceeds and winds up in the pig pen, he formulates a second prayer. Out of options, with one last chance at survival, he will propose hiring on with his dad. Rehearse your lines. Speak with conviction, humility and remorse. Grovel if you must. The goal is to acquire undeserved food and shelter.
When the conversation finally took place, he didn’t even get out of the starting blocks. Dad jumped in with hugs and party plans. Maybe he’d been rehearsing his lines as well: rings, robes and T-bones.
Working Son was a loaded grenade. Under his breath, he’d been composing his prayer for as long as he could remember. It only took a whiff of steaks on the grill to pull his pin and explode in his father’s face.
This prayer paints God as a courtroom defendant; a notion way out of bounds for many of us. But Dad gave his son freedom to speak his mind, even if it came from false assumptions and juvenile self-centeredness. Dad knew his son had to spew poison before he’d be ready for some much needed soul-searching.
Like these sons, we’re all over the map with prayer: Composed words. Log our time. Proper posture. Forced sincerity. All-out panic. Struggling to concentrate. Quoting the good book. Brow-beaten with shame. Daily grocery lists. Frozen by fear. Only counts if we feel something. Never miss a day. God has seen it all.
In this story, Dad didn’t dodge or deny selfish requests, clumsy reconciliations or enraged accusations. And whether they fully grasped their father’s love or not, at least these sons were able to express themselves honestly with him.
Neither son was a very good pray-er. But, Dad always heard their hearts and responded with grace. When it comes to prayer, God isn’t looking for proper or pretty. He just wants real, even if it gets awkward or audacious.

Sugar Daddy

March 8, 2021

We’re notorious for warping God’s gestures of affection to suit ourselves. God gives freewill and we use it to pick bad fruit. He provides speech and we use it to build a tower to our greatness. We use the guidelines he gave us to judge each other. Some even try to turn the gift of his Spirit into religious cocaine.
Both sons grew up watching their father’s generosity. Big brother competed for it. Little brother exploited it. “If he’s got deep pockets … I’ll get me some of that.”
For lengthy periods in Christian history this idea would have fallen on deaf ears. Hardship left no room for “extras.” This is not the case today. We want what we want … with sprinkles. If it gets a little worn, replace it. If we’re bored, grab the remote. We can’t live without the updated version. Instant gratification.
Young son enjoyed the grace of his father, apparently for years. At some point, the idea hit him that he could cash in on the generosity and “grace” himself better than his dad had been doing, so he asked for his ticket to happier days.
We don’t have to look far in the modern church to uncover this. Cherry-pick promises out of scripture to squeeze God like a genie in a bottle. Use our status as believers to justify hurtful treatment of others. Expect our Father to provide full protection as we chart a rebelliously careless course. He’s our Sugar Daddy. This is a family business. Why not get God to work for me?
When I embrace God as my good Father like in this story, I am perfectly graced. When I try to make him my Sugar Daddy, my thinking gets bent. So, if I’m in a bad mood, he must be holding out. Or if life gets rough, he’s fallen down on his job. He owes me perfect kids, an ideal marriage and routine promotions.
In all things we are certainly grateful to our Father. But, he doesn’t turn the lights green on our way to work. Nor does he provide convenient parking spots just because we ask. This is a contrived God of our own making. Not the good Father.
If I’m entitled, it’s not God’s doing. He’d much rather I learn to love my way through the same struggles and disappointments he experienced with his sons.

Life as a Contest

March 1, 2021

How about the oldest son in our story? He’s the center of attention until little guy shows up. Instant competition. But that’s okay, he’s got a head start. He’s pretty sure he’s figured out what Dad’s looking for. So, he’ll point out when he gets it right and point the finger when brother doesn’t.
But, little brother doesn’t have to do anything but be his cute little self, even if it includes breakage and spillage. To big brother’s dismay, he still gets hugs and high fives. Big brother will have to up his game: Little brother gets a hug. I’ll be huggier. Little brother pockets the same weekly allowance. I’ll work for mine. Little brother gets by with imperfection. I’ll be perfect.
Talk about an emotional storm. Suspicion. Envy. Rage. Bitterness. Fatigue. He finally blows up … calls his dad a slave-driver, labels his brother a whore-monger, and ruthlessly condemns and boycotts the celebration of his safe return.
For years older son has labored under a dark, misguided version of his good father, trying to earn a love that’s already his. His endeavor becomes so obsessive he’s willing to demonize those who love him the most … without even blinking.
Sadly, large segments of Christianity still share this older son’s DNA. God’s love and approval are something for which I strive. Try harder. Give more. Pray longer. Stay later. Read more faithfully. Strive for perfection and excellence. Make myself worthy. I have to persuade this reluctant God to look my way.
This turns church into one big contest. I may not be the most righteous person in the room, but I’m better than you. I don’t have all the answers, but I know more than she does. Sure, I mess up, but not nearly as bad as that guy over there.
Every gathering, I see myself as the only person in the room. It’s all about me. But as long as I’m preoccupied with how I measure up to others in some imagined pecking order, I’m blind to the Father’s love … and the welfare of my siblings.
And all the time I’m being my self-consumed self, my Father patiently waits for the day I’m ready to come inside the house and join the family celebration.

Father/Boss

February 22, 2021

We’ve been talking about two boys growing up in a family business, watching their dad in charge. As toddlers, he carried them on his shoulders out to check on the state of the work. It’s all they knew. Let’s unpack this Father a little more.
This family’s business must have been robust to survive a son leaving with his share of the estate. Watch, Dad didn’t even blink when he shared the estate with his inexperienced sons? Successful entrepreneurs would question these tactics. But then, they don’t understand that grace grows when you give it away.
This story isn’t about business strategies. Sure, it was a family business, yet the emphasis was obviously family over business; Dad first, CEO second. This was always the case whether the sons realized it or not. Remember the story’s end when he reminded his eldest that all he owned belonged to him.
The party when the young son returned … what does this tell us? It was never about how much work Dad could get out of either son at day’s end. Enjoying life with his sons was his heart. Dad sets the tone, “This family is not about competition or production quotas. It is about celebrating each other.”
This dad knew his boys … that one would become hyper-responsible and the other would wander off. He never told the dutiful son to sit down and rest. He didn’t stop the roving son from leaving. As the one in charge, he could have. But, he let them pursue their desired paths, hoping they’d one day discover his love.
To force authority on a person degrades the relationship. It may create order, but leaves the recipient feeling disrespected and confused. If made to stay home, the wandering son would have never come to his senses. If he’d not been given room to explode, the laboring son would have never owned his rage toward his dad. This father provided space for both discoveries.
Much of our culture’s religion assumes God has this hyper-need to be boss. He’s designed a cosmic plan that can’t vary one inch to the left or right. He’s the CEO. We are his minions. Work hard for the company. Follow policies and procedures. And you have one chance to get this right … or burn for eternity.
What if life is this story; not a job we do for God, but a family adventure we celebrate with him? And what if, like this story, God has this divine string tied around the heart of each child that he is gently tugging toward home?

Rediscovering the Father

February 15, 2021
I’m writing a recovery workbook by this title, based on Jesus’ tale of a dad with two sons. The story keeps exploding new truth for me. What will you see in it?
We know this one. Dad raises two boys in the family business. Older son is a no-frills hard-working guy. Younger is a free-bird who asks Dad for his piece of the family pie. Dad divides the estate between his sons. Shortly after, the young son decides to use his proceeds to fund a solo flight.
Obviously, he’s not ready to fledge, ’cause he crashes and burns. Out of money, out of friends. Out of friends, out of options. Working for Mr. Pig Farmer, he catches himself drooling over the slop. Time for his “ah-ha” moment … a plan.
His plan is to head home and hire on with Dad. Eyes on the horizon, Dad sees him far off and runs to meet him with hugs and kisses. Both bring their own plan to the reunion. But celebration out-votes obligation. Robes, rings, high dollar beef … time to party. Older son catches wind of the festivities and jumps in with accusations. When Dad consoles, the son goes off on him with pent up rage.
Jesus was born into a world that misunderstood his Father. Church leaders painted him as a demanding task-master. My own dad used to call this “the tyranny of the oughts.” Somebody else labeled it as “The Should Monster.” Jesus used this story to paint, with vivid clarity, a new picture of God.
What can you say about a God who doesn’t run his business so much as he freely shares it with his children. He lets his dutiful kids pursue their addiction to work. He lets his free-bird kids wander and wonder. When we choose unhealthy paths, he seems to love us even more. He responds empathetically the instant any of us open a door, even when he knows the conversation could get clumsy.
We call this parable “the prodigal son.” In reality it’s more about the good Father. Both sons misread him. Older son accuses him. Younger son takes advantage of him. But this Dad is relentless. Nothing either son does or says makes him love them any more or less. This is the God Jesus wants us to know and trust.
If you’re like me, you’ve typically identified with the foibles of the two sons in this story. This is distracting. What if we focus on the Father instead? Sit with him in this story. We’re about to get to know the best Dad ever.

Welcome to Love

February 8, 2021

God believes in love. He creates the world … constantly pursues humanity … becomes one of us … shares his Spirit with us, … all out of love.
His love can be gentle or seem harsh. It can get all up in your face or be subtle as a whisper. It can feel emotionally passionate or logically straightforward. It can discipline or coddle. Sometimes we get it. Sometimes we don’t. God’s love for us is doggedly relentless. We cannot make him un-love us.
God left no room for confusion with his Son. Touching lepers, cuddling little ones, washing feet, all graphic statements of love. He taught it. He lived it. He died it. He exploded a grave with it.
Enough said …
For much of my life I struggled with damaged emotions: anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, lust, hyper-control issues, depression. I tried praying it all away. I read books. I was the dutiful Christian. Nothing worked.
I preached God’s love during my entire ministry, but I never believed it applied to me. Somehow I lived with the silly notion that my particular version of badness stifled any goodness God could come up with. That’s some warped arrogance right there. Then, one day it dawned on me; this isn’t about my loveability. This is about God’s ability to love.
This is where the water gets over my head. I have no idea how God’s love works inside a person to bring hope and healing. In the grand scheme of things, it is probably best to leave that up to him. All I know is that when I stopped trying to be something extra, his love was able to take over and work its magic. My life took a u-turn. I don’t understand it. I just know it happened.
Back in my wounded days, I tried hard to practice love. I was a pastor, so it was my duty. Plus it looked good on my spiritual resume. But it was all like forcing a right-handed glove on my left hand. Just letting you know … this isn’t something we go out and work on. Our role is to stop trying. Apathetic? No. Hard? Yes!
But know this … when you’ve been loved like God loves, it’s hard to keep it to yourself. It’s not so much that you talk it. It’s more that you breathe it. And it’s not a job you do for God. It’s a life you live with him.
Welcome to love.

Pathway Journey

February 1, 2021
You and I have issues. Most of us are aware of our failures and falling-downs. If by chance we forget, our loved-ones and the scabs on our knees remind us.
This being said, think back five years. Where were you with your issues? Did they control you? Were you even aware of them? Could you talk about them? Were you seeking help: therapy, recovery groups, self-help books, prayer and fasting, etc?
There’s this misguided idea that every issue should have an instant solution. If we read the right book or say the right prayer, our problems will vanish in a puff of smoke. Dr. Phil would ask, “How’s that work’n for you?” It’s not unusual to battle some of the same emotional demons for years.
In Pathway, the ministry I’m in, we hear newbies say, “I thought I’d be healed by now. Am I doing this recovery thing wrong? Does this approach even work?” Fair questions, for sure. Instead of quick cures, we invite them to keep coming back.
Pathway has two core values: Be real. Be loved. Bring your authentic self and let us love you. That’s it. The safety these values create invites people to open up their humanity. After a few visits, they realize the playing field is level. There are no “poster children” who have arrived. Week after week, God inhabits the honesty of his people. The magic can be palatable.
Over the years we’ve suited up and shown up, not knowing how our gatherings will unfold. A song may open an “ah-ha” moment. You might discover hope in someone’s story. It’s not chaotic, but there’s no rigid pattern, formula or strategy. The agenda is flexible. People always take priority over program and planning.
Recovery is not something you grasp. It is something that grasps you. It begins when you admit that you are powerless over your issues and fall back into the arms of your loving Father. And it happens best in healthy community.
Pathway… a journey in hope and healing.

Wendell VanValin, Pathway Minister

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