SE Introduction: Session Two
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. Jesus of Nazareth (John 16: 33 NIV)
As we prepare ourselves to journey over the next eight months through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, it’s important to review a bit; looking back at how we got to this point in our path.
My wife, Sandy, and I have been actively involved in pastoral ministry for nearly 30 years now. As a matter of fact, in March 2015, I celebrated my 30th anniversary of the “call of ministry” upon my life. Back in January of 1998, Sandy and I started our Vineyard church here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa by gathering with five couples in our small home located in the southeast quadrant of our city. With the help of both God and dozens of other dedicated followers of Jesus, over the next ten years (1998-2008), we saw our little group grow to well over 350 attenders on a Sunday morning. Father’s House Vineyard Christian Fellowship, our little God-dream to bring the Father Heart of God to Cedar Rapids, grew and flourished. As senior pastors, Sandy and I worked our tails off as we tried our very best to pastor this growing group of people God had brought our way.
On one hand, our church has always had a sweet presence of God in our midst, a deep love for Jesus, and a dedicated heart to serve our community for His sake. But sadly, finances have never been something we’ve had a lot of over the years. We tried our best, back in the day, to keep our overhead low, securing an old bar/dance hall that needed much more repairs than our budget could ever allow for. We also scrimped and saved to add some additional staffing for our growing church, but that never really happened the way we hoped it would. So by 2008, our tenth anniversary as a church community, Sandy & I found ourselves in over our heads, trying to grow a church on a shoestring, while always finding ourselves a day late and a dollar short.
Then, the flood of 2008 hit.
Our city of Cedar Rapids was devastated by what insurance companies call a 500-year flood. While our church building was safe from the floodwaters, our church community, led by an amazing Mercy Response team from Vineyard USA, jumped into relief efforts serving as a resource center for flood relief. Over a period of approximately ten weeks (mid-June to September 1st), we had over 800 volunteers coming into Cedar Rapids from all around the USA, sleeping and eating out of our church building, while hitting the streets of Cedar Rapids, offering all types of relief to flood victims.
Sandy & I joined the fray and we’ve never been more proud of what our little church community did during those difficult days here in Cedar Rapids. By Labor Day, 2008, we were working alongside Mercy Response to put together a long-term relief project for our city when suddenly the phone rang. Galveston, TX had been hit by a massive hurricane, and the entire Mercy Response team was being recalled to go work once again on the front lines of yet another natural disaster. Suddenly, all of our out-of-town volunteers dried up, ninety-five percent of our flood-relief equipment was on the road to Galveston, and we, as a church body, were back to our old self; under-financed, under-staffed, and dog-tired from ten weeks of hard labor, with no one in our midst who knew with any certainty of what we were doing to head-up the massive work we had already committed ourselves to do.
As I look back now, it was a church disaster just waiting to happen. And man, did it happen!
Have you ever been up against a wall? Between a rock and a hard place? Ever been placed in a situation where you didn’t have a clue, but knew that you still needed to move forward, if you possibly can find a way?
Come back next time, kiddies, for more of our tale of two terrors.
My prayer: Father, there are times in this life when understanding goes out the window and all we have left is a simple trust that You are still there. In times of trial and hardship, come Holy Spirit, keep us secure in You. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Jesus said clearly, “In this life, you will have trouble.” Does my theology of God and my worldview of life make plenty of room for that reality? And if it does, how do I need to rightly respond to God and to life when the crap hits the fan? Am I a quitter, a complainer, or am I one who turns my face to God, allowing Him to lead me through the valley of the shadow of death?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.