Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Driving the Journey

I have been challenged lately by the Holy Spirit to slow down in my driving.  I have had a tendency to have a heavy foot while driving.  I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but I will admit that I do have a need for speed but I don't like the cost of speed when you get caught.  I like the rush but driving a Buick Century definitely helps curb that enthusiasm a bit.  Don't get me wrong, I am extremely appreciative of my car, but there are times that I wish that the car I owned was a little sportier.

How many times have you been stuck in traffic getting frustrated because you were in a hurry to get somewhere but it was obvious that you weren't going to get there anytime soon?  I use to commute from Barrie to Milton and back every day (I know ... crazy) but in that commute there was always a rush to either get to work or get home.  One of the costly shortcuts was taking the 407 ETR (electronic toll road) which was roughly $15 one way.  However, there were many times that it saved me time and got me to my destination quicker. 

In life, we are on a similar journey.  I can remember when I was younger thinking that, "I can't wait to be 16 so I can drive" or I can't wait to be 21".  There were all these times when I was in such a hurry to get to my destination that I may have missed enjoying part of the journey.  I was so intent on finding the shortcut that the experience of the moment went by unnoticed.  Much like the 407 ETR, shortcuts can cost you.  They might not cost you money, but they can cost you the experience and/or thrill of something.

When we are followers of Christ, God wants us to enjoy the journey that we are on.  The road isn't always clear and the journey isn't always easy but the experience is irreplaceable.  There may be times when you feel like you're in a traffic jam but know that God is with you even in the jams of life.  There may be something that you are missing by trying to take the shortcut.  We need to relax and just be.  Those are two words that God has really impressed in my heart as of late.  He wants me to just 'relax' and 'be'. 

Psalm 46:10 says, "be still and know that I am God".  When we rush on the journey we miss what God is saying or showing us.  So the next time you seem to be caught up in a traffic jam, relax.  Take a breath.  Know that there is a reason why God is slowing you down.  Easily said, but as I have found out from personal experience, not so easy to do.  However, when we do it the results are well worth the effort.

So for me, I am making a conscious choice to slow down in my driving and enjoy the scenery.  I am also choosing to slow down in this journey of life and enjoy the ride that God is taking me on. 

Rock Solid

While I was helping out at youth camp this past summer, one of the other leaders, Shanna, gave me some playdough from a lesson they were doing and said, "Here, now you will always remember me!"  So I rolled the playdough into a ball and threw it in my car.  That week spent at camp, I developed a lot of new friendships.

Yesterday, Shanna had commented on my Facebook wall and asked me, "How's the playdough?  ahahahah did you throw it out as yet?"  The truth was I didn't have a clue where the ball had ended up.  However, later that afternoon to my surprise, the ball of playdough was located on the floor under my desk.  It must have rolled off the back.  It was hard as a rock!

God has been really working with me lately to change me and mould me into who He wants me to be.  I have been going through a lot of things that have been shaping me for His purposes.  It has been a process that hasn't always been enjoyable, but it is necessary for God to use me the way that He sees fit. 

In life, we come across situations where new experiences come along.  Maybe a new friendship as with Shanna and I; Maybe a new job; Maybe a new opportunity enters into your life.  Whatever it is, they are soft and pliable when they are new.  They all help shape who you are.  They are like the playdough when you first open up the package.

As time goes on and you continue to work through your new experiences and as they get exposed to the air, time passes, and like the ball of playdough, they become rock solid.  You get comfortable in your new friendship.  You get comfortable in your new job.  You get comfortable in your new opportunity.  Things begin to solidify and the fear factor of the unknown wears off.

God does the same in our lives.  He takes us to a place of the unknown.  He takes us to a place where we don't know which way to turn but He doesn't leave us alone there.  He walks with us on our journey of life.  The cool thing is that as we spend time with Him; as we expose ourselves to His presence, the fear of situations gradually dissipates and we become rock solid in our faith and trusting Him.

So the playdough sits on my desk in a place where I will remember that I have new friends whose relationship with is solidifying.  But it also serves as a reminder that as I place my faith in Christ, He will solidify my relationship with Him ... ROCK SOLID!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just Ducky

Have you ever been facing something new in your life or an obstacle that you don't think you can get over?  How about you've been asked to do something and you don't think you're qualified?

On Sunday, I went to the park for the day with a blanket, a good book, a submarine sandwich, a bottle of water and a package of Jube Jubes.  As I was laying on the blanket reading, I could hear some splashing in the river beside me.  I looked over and there was some ducks there which were stuck behind a log which opened up into a wider river.  They were trying to figure out how to get over the log and keep going.  As I watched, I was amazed to see the ducks behind the lead duck flipping the tails of the ducks in front with the bills.  It was both cute, but inspiring at the same time.

In the book of Joshua, the Israelites were also facing a huge obstacle ... Jericho.  The walls were huge, the people there were huge and the obstacle of taking the land was huge.  But God had given them the land.  God had prepared for them an inheritance that He may be glorified in His people.  He was nudging them forward to take the city; the large obstacle; to overcome.  All they had to do was be obedient to what He was asking the Israelites to do.  God had already won the battle for them ... WITHOUT A FIGHT!

There have been times in my life where I have felt that maybe I had made a mistake by going into ministry.  There were even times when I didn't feel that I belonged; that I didn't fit the mould of a pastor.  However, God was there reminding me that He had placed me in this job.  He was behind me gently nudging me to keep going and to not get caught up by the size of the obstacle in front of me.  Like a couple of the ducks who moved out of the way, there have been times when I have wanted to swim away.  However, God continues to push me forward and show me that I need to be obedient to His call.  He has already gone before me and won my battles for me.

Maybe you are going through a time in your life where you feel that you don't measure up.  Maybe you are struggling in areas of your life where you just feel like you cannot go on.  Maybe you've come up against a road block and you're not sure that there is any way around.  However, God is there with you.  He is nudging you on.  The only thing that He is asking is that you be obedient to His gentle nudges.  Don't swim away from the obstacle, but allow God to make you an overcomer!  He has already fought your battles for you.

The ducks ... all of them made it over by jumping up on the log.  My afternoon ... was encouraged that no matter what was coming my way, whether in ministry or just in everyday life that God was with me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It Is All About Me

We live in a society that has become more and more about self-promotion.  Last night, I became even more aware of that in something as simple as my Facebook status.  Lately, my statuses have been, "Dean Peckham is (blank).", where the blank has been everything from happy, humbled, learning, pausing, content, trusting determined and even challenged (which some people had a heyday with) but they were always somehow about me.

Over the past six months, God has been challenging me in a way that I never thought I would ever be challenged.  It started out back in the Fall of last year that I was driving to work one day (at my fairly new job at the church as the Associate Pastor) that I heard God say to me, "Dean, you are arrogant!"  I was aghast!  I thought to myself, "Am I really arrogant?  Have I thought of myself as something greater than I really am?"   I had no idea that God was going to take me on a journey to show me exactly how arrogant I had become and how I need to change.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but I am not fond of being corrected.  Maybe that alone shows my arrogance but the last few months have been brutal for me.  Every time I turn around I seem to be going through some sort of experience where God or someone that God chooses to use (and there have been many) brings me down one more notch off of my high horse.  I can honestly say that this has been one of the most trying times in my life.  I do not like being wrong but that again is my problem.  Pride has crept in.

Hebrews 12:5-11 says:
5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
   “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and don’t give up when he corrects you.
 6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
      and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (NLT)

In this journey, although somewhat unenjoyable, I still want to be obedient to the place where God wants to take me.  If that means that I still have farther to go before I am humbled to where God wants me, then I pray that God gives me the endurance to go the distance.  I want God's best for my life and that means that in the words of John, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." (John 3:30, NLT)

My Facebook status today is simply, "Dean Peckham is nothing."  It is not that I don't have value, but rather, that I remove more of me and die to myself, that Christ may be alive in me.  My hope and pray is that when people look at me, that they see the character and nature of Jesus Christ in me.  I believe Paul sums up my feelings best with, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV)

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Still Small Voice

The other day I was feeling the urge to write again so I did.  I had written out what I thought might have been one of my best blogs to date.  As I went to post it, there were errors in the posting and I was feeling like this was not made for public viewing, but I fixed the errors and posted it.

... then came the still small voice ... "Dean ... take it down."

Now ... if you have read any of my other posts, you will know by now that I don't really have a great track record of listening.  However, after a series of recent events, I am learning to listen and I quickly removed the post from the blog site.  I had a peace about it.  I did, however, save the blog into a Word document and thought maybe this one is for another time.

Later on that day, I was talking to a friend of mine who was going through some life choices.  He was wrestling with God about some decisions that were coming up in his life.

... then came the still small voice ... "Dean ... send him the blog."

Again ... I thought I was starting to lose it, but I thought that if I didn't maybe I would miss out on something that God was doing.  So I sent him the blog and after he had read it he told me that it confirmed for him everything that God was telling him.  Even some of the wording matched perfectly what God had told him.

To say the least, I was humbled.  I am only starting to understand the still small voice, but I am glad that God found it in His infinite wisdom to use me in that manner and that I was obedient.  In the past ... I have done my own thing, but I am learning that it is not all about me.  Sometimes swallowing our pride is the biggest lesson that we can learn.

So ... I keep on with my journey in becoming more like Christ and look to Him for direction.  The more I think I have it figured out, the more I realize that I don't have a clue what is going on ... but I am glad that He does!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Difficult to Trust

Life doesn't always go as you want it to go.  Sometimes, you try to control things and try to force things a certain way.  But you cannot always control what happens in your life because you are not in this world all by yourself.  You share it with the people around you and they influence you and if you let them in, they can change the course of your life whether you like it or not.

I didn't always want to be a pastor.  Actually, for the longest time, I wanted to be an airline pilot.  "This is your captain speaking ... " but because at the time my eyesight wasn't good enough (.4 of to be exact) of what was the allowable limit at that time in aviation transportation, I didn't get to follow my dream.  I was disappointed for years.  I was even lost about what to do.  There were a couple of times when I heard God calling me into ministry, but I wanted to be a pilot ... not a pastor.

The thing is, I chose to submit my will to God's will when I became a Christ-follower.  That meant that I had to let Christ in.  That meant that I was giving up my will for His will for my life.  He wanted me to be a pastor ... and after some stubborn arguing with God, I wound up eventually going to Bible School and now find myself enjoy ministry in a church as an Associate Pastor.

I also let someone else into my life who I eventually married.  That didn't go as I had planned either.  I had expected it to be a husband and a father but because of situations beyond my control all that came to an abrupt end and finalized with divorce.  Those are the moments that are hardest to accept.  Those are the moments when you are challenged the most.  I would love to say that I came out of it with flying colours, but it took a while for me to bounce back from that situation.

The truth in all of that was that God never left me.  He never abandoned me in my struggle.  He allowed me to go down the road that I went, and even though I didn't know it, He was still with me!  That's because God loves me just like he loves you!

After my separation I had resigned from the church where I was a Youth Pastor.  That was just one more thing that I never expected that I would have to do in my life.  However, in doing so, I had the distinct privilege of speaking one more time to an amazing youth group.  The words that I left with them which still stick with me today are from Proverbs 3.  Verses five through seven say,
 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
      do not depend on your own understanding.
 6 Seek his will in all you do,
      and he will show you which path to take.
 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
      Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Little did I know that God was going to use those words which I was leaving for the youth to bring me back to a place where He could once again impart into my life and lead me.  I learned what God's Grace is really all about and I was humbled.

If you are going through a struggle, a situation that is impossible, or a low spot in the journey of your life, please realize that you do not walk alone.  God is with you!  He is standing right beside you and He is there whether you are aware of His presence or not.  Don't give up!  Keep trusting God to lead you and look to Him because He will direct your path!  Press on!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Fishy Truth

It has been a while since I have posted anything on here, but that doesn't mean that God hasn't been working in my life.  Over the past couple of weeks, God has been showing me that sometimes I just need to do what I am told, not what I want to do because His ways are much better than mine.  Let me explain:

A couple of weeks ago, a situation had presented itself where I was invited to do something and I just felt this uneasy sense "Don't do it!"  It was that quiet whisper that just sits in the depths of your gut.  It wasn't a screaming 'NO!', but it was enough that I recognized that I shouldn't do it.  Long story short, I didn't listen.  In fact, I disobeyed, not once, not twice, but three times. 

At our youth group (IGNITE Student Life) we have been going through the book of Jonah for the summer.  It has been an awesome experience where the kids get to hear this fishy story from a different perspective.  The leadership have been asking them to put themselves in Jonah's shoes.  What was it like for him?  What was he going through?  Little did I know that I was about to put myself in his shoes.

You see, as I disobeyed, I felt a lot like Jonah as was sinking to the bottom of the ocean.  The seaweed was wrapping around him and sucking him to the bottom never to be heard of again.  I was in my own ocean where I was wondering where the exit was.  I was wondering if I was going to be saved by the big fish or was I just going to come to my demise at the bottom.  My disobedience (sin) had left me in a state of confusion.  But last Saturday night, God woke me up from a nightmare that caused me to repent of my sin.  I knew I was wrong and I knew I had to make things right.  God used the dream to be like Jonah's fish.

How many times do we go the wrong way?  The beauty of the story is that God is with us all the way through.  Even in my disobedience, God was still with me and still reaching out to me.  He was still making a way out.  God is with you no matter what you are going through.  No matter how much you have messed up.  No matter how wrong things are going for you!  Know that God is with you and He will never leave you or forsake you!  He loves you!  Just call out to Him and repent of the sin in your life!

The confusion is gone and the road is a lot clearer.  I just pray that the next time that the small voice comes and says, "No Dean" that I will respond, "Okay Lord!  I trust you!"