Sunday, August 7


“Some of you would like it if I said we were going to find a healthy balance between unhealthy extremes……..when we are referring to God, balance is a huge MISTAKE. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life.” Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect Of The Holy Spirit. (Emphasis and italics added)

I can remember back when I thought I had achieved the pinnacle of God’s purpose for me. It was a frightening time……the two weeks before I was set to give my first ‘sermon’ as an certified Community Chaplain at Meadowbrook Chapel in Novi Michigan. This was Mark’s chapel, a dear friend of mine whom had passed after an accident a few months before I called his dad to see if I could help out with the chapel ministry. And, as Reverend John had told me when I called, specific prayer had been said continuously for months for me, not just someone but me, to come and assume the chapel duties. Pretty high expectations, even with the ones I have always put on myself especially when handling God’s Word.

So much so was this heavy feeling of expectation and rightful fear that the completed sermon was about twenty-five pages thick…..complete with commentaries on the specific verses, combinations of various translations of the verses and some ‘filler’ material from some of the top theologians (properly attributed, of course) in case I totally BOMBED, which in my eyes was a definite probability given the deliverer of it.

As my children will loudly and swiftly declare, I am very seldom late for anything. If there is a fault with me in this area of my life, it is that I am chronically and almost embarrassing (definitely if you talk to my kids) extremely early for events and meetings. Needless to say, I showed up at the extended care nursing facility where the chapel was held about an hour early. I ran up to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a cup of coffee and came back…..still majorly early. So I did something that would become a tradition with me ever since; I took out my book of my sermon and proceeded to pray over it.

And I realized that I wasn’t going to preach that Sunday.

Its where I got the nickname from some of my congregation there at Meadowbrook of “Toilet paper chaplain.” Because, as I began to pray and seek out God’s true plan in the service that was to be my first (at where I perceived my ‘high spot’ in purposed living to God’s kingdom building plans), the gentle and teasing voice whispered to my heart saying “Nice preparation……now are you prepared for My material?” and so on, a Father’s proud and steady voice whispering His satisfaction and joy at this son’s stepping into uncomfortable ground for the sake of the Purpose. The forty-five minutes that I was ‘early’ for the service went by quickly, it seemed. Towards the end of the prayer time, God directed me to three specific verses.

All I had to write on was a piece of toilet paper that was in the backseat (why I don’t know).

Hence, the nickname, for it wouldn’t be the last time. Not by a long shot. Most of the time, I would listen to God’s gentle and sometimes not so gentle prompting and come in with a flimsy piece of toilet paper (yes, I kept a roll in my car from then on) that had some scribbled verses or comments on it. I realized as the chapel service I was committed to progressed beyond the ‘four month trial’ period I had agreed to into six, then eight months. Through Easter and Christmas and the death of one of the original saints who had ‘built’ the chapel (and prayed specific prayer for me to be the chaplain). Through my ordination in January of 2008 and up to my hiatus from the Chapel that became permanent months later due to other events in my life.

“….do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11b NIV

Before the first New York Mission Trip to the Bowery Street Mission, I jotted down several verses that God had impressed upon my heart for some (at the time) unknown reason. I was apprehensive about the NYC trip because it was far from home and I had realized by that time in my journey that when you walk into situations where God is, you are going to meet up personal and close with Him. And my ‘natural’ dislike for the homeless (due to personal impact and experience) made me nervous about properly ‘displaying’ God to the men and community that I would be immersed in for a week.

Then the leader of the group found out I was a chaplain (I found out later I was ‘ratted’ out).

I gave one service that year, spending an hour in one of the staff’s office seeking God’s direction among the scribbled verse references that I had stuffed into my bible. And I began another ‘tradition’, closing my eyes and envisioning not the words I would say or the dramatic prose I’d seek to emulate from other great speakers I have been blessed to see and witness. No, it was envisioning the, well, flow for the lack of a better description. Seeing how the tide of God’s word would surge upon the shoreline of the world and regress back out to sea only to come back stronger and with more power before it again swept the unprepared back out to the vast ocean. For that is how the Word of God hits me and impacts me…… the waves of the ocean hitting the beach until I have lost my grip on my faith and my pride to be swept into the immensity of Him.
I had a small piece of paper in which I outlined my ‘sermon’ and as soon as I opened my mouth to speak, promptly skipped most of it.

The next year, I was ‘prepared’ better since I knew I was going to give the majority of the sermons (six in all) during the week. The paper I carry up to the pulpit was less, more of a scribble than a step-by-step outline to follow. It is always great to see the impact of God’s Word when He is allowed to speak, allowed to overcome you and use you to be His voice, His love and His conviction to those whom He has gathered to the place to worship, find and understand Him.

I could never give the same sermon twice and would probably be hard pressed to recall the specific examples and conversations that were given during its pronouncement.

But in every opportunity where I gave the Holy Spirit His due and His desire to speak through me, to use my hands and my feet to carry God’s Word to those He had purposed to hear it, I always had someone come up after and tell me how it spoke to them or to a situation… genuine and impactful it was and how it was evident how much I was in that spiritual ‘sweet spot’ that God uses to show us the miraculous and promised joy of being ‘on purpose’ for His plan.

It wasn’t a collaboration or a regurgitation of some private time between me and God. It was a transparent time in God’s Word where there were others who, at their own choosing and the Spirit’s opening their eyes, would share in the Word that God wanted to speak into our lives.

And it seems to extend for me outside the purpose of being a chaplain in charge of Chapel Services. In everything that I am uncomfortable in, or would rather not do, there comes a comfortable replacement when I get myself to let go after I step into the circumstances or situation and allow the Spirit to be the voice, the movement and the focus.

Totally out of balance……..All God.

The perfect way to be in God’s purpose.

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