Three Personal Questions Answered!

I’ve been on a spiritual journey for almost sixty years. A friend recommended I read, The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich. The book has helped me answer some questions I’ve had for some time. Here are my questions.

1. Why The Last 14 Years, I Could Take or Leave The Church.

2. What One Thought Stunts My Spiritual Progress.

3. What It Looks Like To Become A Mature Christ Follower.

A quick overview of the book is in order here. The authors highlight six stages of spiritual development. They are not clearly delineated or once and for all. There can be movement back and forth between stages and times of stagnation. The part of the book I found most interesting is the discussion of the wall.

The six stages adapted to my own language are as follows:

  • Stage One, The awareness/awakening to God (Could have begun in childhood or any other era.)
  • Stage Two, The beginning of discipleship, early commitment and desire to learn. Early learning usually comes from listening to others and is seldom self-study. Often have more zeal than knowledge.
  • Stage Three, The beginning of serving. Often in stage three service is done because there is a sense of duty, a desire to be accepted into the fold or some other motive less than God’s love compelling one to serve.
  1. The answer to my first question came when the authors claim most church ministers and ministries operate in the first three stages. Fourteen years ago I was forced into stage four and ever since, the church seemed like it wasn’t ever getting beneath surface issues to me. My experience has been the church is stuck in the first three stages largely because most ministers have never gone beyond the first three stages. Many ministers who find level four are removed from ministry by churches. Paul was driven to brokeness, Peter’s denial pushed him to level four and our public failures often are what causes one to move beyond the first three levels. An ignorant church disposes of those people right when they are about to become useful at a much greater level!
  • Stage Four, The journey inward, usually comes after practicing the first three stages for some time. It is often precipitated by some crisis, either personal or a faith crisis. This phase begins a journey inward to discover who I am and what I really believe. It could be referred to as a time of being broken or brokenness. Everything you’ve known to this point is challenged and questioned. The purpose of this stage is for a person to come to complete surrender of everything to God.

The Wall, is our stuckness in stage four until we come to complete surrender. Stage four can take a long time! Anytime, in stage five or six, I take my will back, I get to return to the wall.

2. The answer to my second question was answered here. Whenever the thought comes to my mind, I’m a grown man and if I want to . . . I will. Even if the action is not called sin in the Bible, that statement is me taking back the right to choose for myself what I will or won’t do and is the beginning of insubordination. That ultimately will move me back to being stuck at the wall.

  • Stage Five, after resolving everything internally in stage four and going through the wall, the movement is now back out. Humbled, surrendered and broken to ask, what do you want me to do Lord? Whom can I serve? This service is now fueled by God’s love and at His command. It is similar to stage two but really quite different as well.
  • Stage Six, a life fueled by the love of God. Position, prestige, recognition, no longer matter. All that matters is my heart is filled with God’s love and it spills over from a humble servant wherever we are. Contentment is a benefit, acceptance and gratitude are qualities seen at this level.

3. The answer to question three, a mature Christ follower lives in stages five and six. They feed their own souls, they have intimacy with God and their lives are very in tune with His promptings. Their service is more about listening for the promptings and serving out of love and obedience than about holding a position or title. Their lives touch others. They may occasionally revisit the wall but it only reminds them how to move through it again and it goes much more quickly. They can never settle for less than level five and six living.

blessings,

Scott

 

 

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Home

Welcometo SWPart of me has always wished I could go home again. Looking back now as an older man, I realize I was very blessed to grow up in South Williamsport, PA. Our community was just that, a community. It wasn’t a subdivision in the burbs, but a genuine neighborhood. It was a small north central Pennsylvania community on the Susquehanna River. There were many mountain streams of crystal clear water nearby, Loyalsock, Lycoming, and Pine Creeks (pronounced Cricks!) just to name a few.

Most families were stable and lived in their homes for years. We knew everyone for several blocks in every direction. I could still tell you the family names in each home on East Central Ave. I knew the names of every street, every alley and ten different ways to get anywhere. To this day, I still know my way around the Williamsport area better than anywhere else I have lived.

We just visited “home” this summer during the Little League World Series. I felt like a kid at Christmas. It was a great visit. I love seeing the mountains, and walking around just taking in all the places. Every drive is pregnant with memories. There was my Grandparents home, memories of Christmases and other times flood my mind. There was where I grew up, how could that time be long gone, parents both deceased and things much different? There was Gayle’s and my first home. Our first two children were born while we lived there on Grandview Place.

I always am looking for someone I may know. Straining to recognize people I may have not seen in nearly 40 years since we lived there. I regularly talk to total strangers to see if I may have known them back in the day! My spirit feels settled and I smile inside when I’m there, where I had all of life’s first experiences.

What brought all this up is being at the World Energy Engineering Conference in Atlanta and having someone sit next to me at a lunch. Through conversation, we came to realize we both grew up in South Williamsport, PA. Her dad is a few years younger than me. But just the excitement of meeting someone else, who lived near where I lived made me realize once again how critically important our early home life can be. It sticks with you for the remainder of your life.

Home, based on your experience can be the best or worst of memories. I’m thankful for the realization of how blessed I was to grow up where I did and with the family I did in South Williamsport, PA.

Blessings,

Scott

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3 Lessons About Color Blindness

When I was a little kid at vacation bible school one summer, I was told to color a cluster of grapes and the leaves. I was coloring when the teacher said, Scott, the grapes are supposed to be purple and the leaves green. I said, that is what I did. The teacher said, no your grapes are blue and your leaves are brown. I was confused but that was my first introduction to the reality of my color blindness. Later, I was employed right out of high school in an office supply place where I pulled orders to ship. One day the boss came in and said, Ranck, are you color blind or something? He said, you are shipping out too many things that are the wrong color. They gave me a color blind test and then transferred me to another department. This week, I bought a pair of Enchroma glasses which allow a color blind person to see color more accurately. Here are three things I’ve discovered about my color blindness.

  1. Being Color Blind is Like Living in a Faded Out World! Whenever someone hears a person is color blind, they start pointing to things and saying, what color is this? I could always see bright colors like blue, red, yellow and orange. I often couldn’t distinguish red from green, blue from purple and mostly colors that are the same shade all looked alike to me. I have a terrible time with pastels. When I put on the Enchroma glasses the first thing I noticed was a neighbor’s bush had multiple shades of green leaves. It always looked like a dull clump of faded green to me. Now it looks alive with multiple shades of a more vibrant green. I noticed even the colors I thought I was seeing before were far more vibrant. The paint on cars really appears vibrant. Especially, the blue and red cars. I notice advertising signs at stores are more vibrant colors. I can distinguish different colors even when they are the same shade. Taking a walk, the trees look more varied in colors and they don’t all just look like a blob of the same faded out color.
  2. I Will Need To Learn What Colors Are What! Because all I’ve ever known is what I saw, now that I can see more diversity, shades and nuances of color, I will need to be reeducated on what color I’m actually seeing because I don’t know. I saw a store, I always thought was painted green, but now see it is burgundy! It is going to be fun learning what I’ve not been able to distinguish in the colorful world we live in. It will be like back to kindergarten for me to learn what the colors are. I’m thinking, even when I’m not wearing the glasses I will be more aware of what is really there.
  3. There Are Going To Be Many “Firsts” To Experience! I had to be to work early yesterday for a meeting and on the ride to the office, I experienced my first sunrise wearing the glasses. With them off, the sky looked like a washed out pale blue, with the bright sun coming up. With the glasses on, the sky was alive with various shades of pink and red streaming out in both directions from the sun. I’ve seen many what appeared to be beautiful sunsets, but, I’m thinking I’ve not seen anything yet! Each day will be an adventure of seeing and experiencing things for the first time. It is exciting.

There is a spiritual lesson in all this to me. The Bible teaches that until we come to know Jesus, we are spiritually blind. There are realms, shades, and nuances to life we just can’t see and comprehend. Scripture teaches the enemy works very hard to keep us blind, lest the light of the Gospel shine into us and we become Christ followers. What adventures await for those who have their seeing corrected. Each day of life becomes an adventure, knowing, loving and understanding God and his world.

blessings,

Scott

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3 Redeeming Qualities of Marriage

As I write, Gayle and I have been married 44 years and 8 months. That is long enough to have most the kinks worked out but I’m sure not all of them! Here are three amazing things marriage has taught me that never crossed my mind at nineteen when we got married.  IMG_1445

  1. A Wife Who Loves The Lord Made Me A Better Man! In the early years, I really didn’t like this. Gayle wanted to have a Christian home and I really didn’t care much. Just her presence in our home tamed me some. Even though I was a total heathen, I altered my behaviors some just because she was there. Later, when I became a Christian, coming home to Gayle everyday, not wanting to disappoint her helped my growth as a Christian happen quicker than it would have on my own. 1 Peter 3:1-4 supports this concept. Trying to fix a spouse never works, but your quiet, godly presence can make a big difference.
  2. A Wife and Family Revealed How Selfish I Am! I remember my first awakening to my self-centeredness. I found that when my family did what I wanted, I could be fairly content. But when I had to do what they wanted and really had no interest, I would do it but was miserable and made everyone around me feel like they were walking on egg shells. They didn’t like to poke the bear. Over the years, my eyes have been open wider to see just how deeply embedded my selfishness is. It is ugly! The amazing thing is how blind I can be to that side of me. I often see that part of me showing itself in many ways. Marriage has allowed me to see this and make some adjustments. I’m not sure if living alone would ever allow me to see this. Learning to serve others with no expectation of reward or fanfare is big.
  3. Marriage Encourages Me To Consider My Legacy! I remember hitting the fast forward button and thinking about my time to die. Would I die alone, a selfish old man? Or would I come to life’s end surrounded by family, Gayle, our kids and grandkids and love. Would they have positive things to remember? What example would I have left behind for them? Would our marriage be an example to them of how rich life together could be or give them a reason to doubt the wisdom of married life?

None of those things entered my mind as a hormone driven teenager thinking about marriage. But now, they are the major life lessons from married life.

Blessings,

Scott

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Why I Rarely Do Weddings!

Scott & Gayle 1-20-73Scott&GayleRehearsal

As a person who once served as a pastor and now involved in men’s ministry, I’m regularly asked to perform a wedding ceremony. 99.9% of the time, I refuse. Honestly, I rarely can muster any excitement when I see people getting married. Lately, I’ve been pondering why I feel this way. I will give you my thoughts.

I don’t like make-believe. The wedding ceremony in the US has become one of the biggest make-believe days in our existence. Thousands of dollars and hours of time are spent for a wedding while little effort or time is spent preparing for marriage. I used to keep track of everyone I married and how many stayed together. Even after requiring premarital counseling before I would perform the ceremony, even after having couples sign a covenant with each other and me vowing to seek help when things got tough, too many were throwing in the towel after a couple of years. I’ve watched too many, especially brides, going into marriage with their eyes totally closed, so deluded by the desire to be married, to have the perfect wedding day, they overlook the storm that is coming. I partially joke about having an application to fill out before dating seriously. But seriously, shouldn’t everything be on the table going into a serious relationship that has the potential for marriage? Why tiptoe around sticky issues for fear of running the person away? In most cases, if you can’t come to terms with major areas of life before marriage is that really who you want to spend your life with? How about this approach, I really am attracted to you but before we get into this relationship too deeply, there are some really important things I need to know about you. The truth will set you free, to move ahead or move on!

I know human kind. I’ve been in the people business a long time. I know what people are like, even “good” people. I know me. I know Jesus said, he didn’t trust people because he knew human nature! I know most people have a public image and then a private self and it is rare the two are the same. When I hear future brides gush about how awesome their guy is, I want to say, tell me that after two years of marriage and I may believe you. Tell me after twenty and you may have found a keeper! I know how selfish we are by nature. I’ve experienced far more times than I’d like to admit, dealing with couples with stars in their eyes before marriage only to have them back in my office a year or two after barely able to look at or speak to each other. In my own marriage, we came close to calling it quits after only two years.

I don’t like some of my own marriage story. Gayle and I were engaged today, September 17, 1971! We were both 17-18 years old. We were everything I described above. Our wedding day was nice, our marriage was not too much fun. Oh, we had several good months early, but it deteriorated quickly. Even after becoming Christians and later as I became a pastor, too much of the above still came into play. Only after being crushed and humbled and willing to do the hard work on ourselves did we begin to find joy in our marriage. It is not any easy road. It is not for the faint of heart.

Saving Grace. The only hope I have for marriages to prosper is the only hope I have for individuals to find satisfaction in life. Surrendering to Jesus Christ and being open to his constant work of changing you, while your spouse does likewise. Two imperfect people being shaped by the loving hand of the Master, being quick to own your failures and quick to forgive your spouse’s failures. Two people who care more about reality than presenting a false front to their peers. Two people willing to do the hard work required on themselves to become the best partner they can be. Two people who care enough to hear and see the truth no matter where it comes from. Two people who will choose to love and accept their partner while God works out the self-deception, self-will and self-absorption. Marriage can be an amazing, beautiful journey but it can also be a devastating, life altering disaster!

So, the counsel from a traditional wedding script should be heeded: Marriage is ordained by God therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God!

blessings,

Scott

 

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Does Forced Diversity Create The Strongest Team?

I was at a conference recently concerning the need to fill the energy workforce pipeline with a young and diverse workforce. It was interesting to see that in the engineering profession in Florida’s Energy Workforce, 75% of the females who went through the rigors and made it to an energy engineering position, left their positions within a short time. There wasn’t data to drill down to find out why they left, but it was the biggest take away for me. These people were groomed, invited into college level education for STEM, but once they went through the entire process, ended up leaving their engineering position.

As the conference leaders spoke on and on about having diversity in the industry, I started thinking about diversity and whether forced diversity strengthens or weakens a business. While listening to the talk, I googled diversity in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Guess what, the only diversity among collegiate and professional sports teams is at the coaching level. The NFL and NBA are made up of a strong majority of minorities. The NHL was largely Caucasian. MLB has a good mix. I started wondering if there is forced diversity in any arena where winning is the major driving force. The answer to that question is no.

I’m not against diversity in the workplace, I am against forced diversity. To be the best, hire the best. Whether that candidate is a woman, man, white, minority, whatever. I almost think interviewing should not allow the person being interviewed to be seen. Even voice altering devices should be used so the interviewer could have no bias, just select the best and brightest candidate for the position. This would allow for a naturally diverse workplace without weakening the environment.

In the conference, they were lauding how diversity strengthens the marketplace and my question in my head was, then why when winning is the goal, there is no forced diversity but only what happens naturally?

Just some mental pondering said out loud.

Blessings,

Scott

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Life Change Through Mind Change

Every time I have experienced a change in my life over the years it has come in one of two ways. Either, I develop a plan and work really hard to discipline myself and make a change or my eyes are open to a new way of thinking and the change comes as a result.

The latter way, only requires a source of truth outside myself and the openness and willingness to accept that truth. The first method has never lasted for me. It requires strenuous effort and a determined will for a long period of time. The first method is how we can make things happen on our own. The second, is how life can transform with the help of God.

The Bible teaches if I will surrender my will to His will, inform and transform the way I think the outcome is life change. Some may call this experience an aha moment. The lights go on, something that wasn’t understood becomes clear and once seen, I wonder how I was blind for so long.

Note the order, surrender comes first, then a renewing of my mind and then a changed life. The only time I have experienced this true life change is when I am humble enough to surrender and open enough to hear.

Most of the major battles I’ve faced in life have come from me exerting what I want over clear teaching of Scripture and what God says is so. For my understanding of who God is and how He works to be accurate, I need to allow Him to reveal who He is to me. I cannot create Him to be what I want in my own mind.

This truth is so simple yet so profound. God has given us the natural world, His word and His Son to study for mind overhauling. When I can live in line with revealed truth, with a humble heart and eyes wide open, it is restful, peaceful rather than stressed and conflicted. Life becomes stimulating because of seeing new things.

When I have a battle internally, I can ask God to show me how my thought processes are wrong. What am I missing, what don’t I see, how am I thinking about the subject that leads me to the wrong outcome. As I ponder deeply revealed truth, He will show me. The lights go on. The battle fades. My life is changed again in some way.

blessings,

Scott

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