I gave a witness talk at the Calgary Anglican Cursillo Movement‘s monthly worship night (AKA Ultreya) last night, and a few of my friends from that community said they wished they could have attended, and listened the talk. In case some of them were being sincere ;), I decided to post the talk as my 237th Disciplehood entry.
A quick warning: since this talk was written for a Cursillo audience, it contains some Cursillo jargon that non-Cursillistas won’t understand (like Cursillistas, for instance). Hopefully the context will be self-explanatory, but if it’s not, none of these details are critical to the plot anyway, so just set them aside and keep going.
Without further ado, here goes:
Let’s start with a prayer. You probably all know this one.
Almighty God, without you, we are not able to please you. Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First, I think I should tell you a little about myself. I’m married to Karen – the pretty redhead sitting right there – and we have two wonderful children. Ian is 12 and Katie is 15. We attend Holy Trinity Anglican Church, where Karen leads the children’s ministry and I’m one of the music directors.
We’re both journalists by training and trade, and we’ve both spent many years working for newspapers as reporters and editors. These days, I work in public relations for Agrium, which is a fertilizer manufacturer.
Writing for newspapers and working in PR pays the bills – and it can be pretty fun, too, but we’ve never really been passionate about it. We feel compelled – maybe the right word is ‘called’ – to use our writing to share joy, and I’ll be so audacious as to even use the words wisdom and maybe even comfort.
Karen has expressed herself very well in blankverse poetry over the years, but most recently she’s focused on writing children’s literature. Her first book, which is called ‘If Heaven is so Great, Why Can’t I Go Now?’ came out this past spring. It’s a fantastic book, so I encourage you to check it out.
As for me, I dabble as a songwriter, as some of you know. But really, my main creative outlet is in blogging.
I decided about four years ago to start writing a blog about God, and the blog is called Disciplehood. I tend to have some quirky and off-beat thoughts about God and faith, and it helps me to flesh them out if I write them down. And in case these insights are of use, or of interest, to anyone else, I post these wanna-be sermons on the World Wide Web once a week or so.
I got started in the fall of 2010, and I recently posted my 236th Disciplehood entry. So clearly, blogging is not a passing fancy for me.
Now, about a month after I started the blog, I went to my first Cursillo weekend as a participant. It was the fall of 2010 – Sean Krausert was the lay director – and it was a watershed experience for me.
I don’t think I’m the first person to say this, but before my Cursillo weekend, my faith was a black and white faith, but at Entheos it was brought into color – De Colores, as it were. The whole weekend was extremely life-giving, but I had a particularly momentous encounter with God out on the foot bridge on the way to the chapel in the woods.
I came back from the weekend full of the Spirit and kept on blogging.
A few months later, I wrote my first worship song (All the More), and I shared some of my story in a witness talk at our church. Both the talk and the song were really well-received, and I started to wonder if God was calling me to something more.
Now, at that time, I was working at home, part-time, as a freelance writer and editor. I didn’t make enough money to be the family breadwinner, but I was the family bread cooker, laundry folder, toilet scrubber and dog poop scooper.
But around the same time I wrote the worship song and gave the talk, a friend from our church invited me to apply for a great job at Agrium. Since I didn’t seek this myself, and it came from a godly friend, Karen and I figured this offer was God nudging me out of my comfortable but obscure and low-paying life as a part-time freelancer and stay-home dad, so I took the job. It’s a great gig – my bosses and co-workers are supportive and professional, and we do really great work together. Nobody could ask for a better work situation.
Anyway, soon after I started working at Agrium, I was invited to work a Cursillo weekend – as a table leader in the spring of 2011. That was Jack Goodall’s weekend, in case you’re keeping track.
Sean Krausert was there again, this time as a member of the Spiritual Team. During one of his talks, Sean pointed out what he called his Spot: the patch of carpet in the Rollo Room where he was when he gave his life to Christ, on his first Cursillo weekend.
He went on to explain how a few weeks after that moment, he walked away from his career as a lawyer. He embarked on a path he didn’t fully understand yet, but he knew that God was in the lead.
And when I heard that story, I felt convicted.
You see, my Cursillo candidate experience sounded a lot like his – to a point. But a few weeks after his big moment, he gave up a lucrative job to devote his life to ministry and family. A few months after my big moment, I took on a lucrative job that left me a lot less time to devote to ministry and family.
So At the next break, I headed out to My Spot: the little foot bridge. I thanked God for my job at Agrium, but asked Him if that’s really where He wanted me to be. ‘Do you want me to be a deacon, like Sean, Lord?’ I asked. ‘Or maybe even a – gulp – priest???”
I didn’t get a clear answer that day, so I decided that what God was saying was, ‘Maybe, but not yet.’
And as much as I wanted an answer right then and there, I decided to wait, because like it says in Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV):
… Those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
So I waited.
I followed Jack Goodall’s example and continued to work every Cursillo weekend that they’d let me.
I continued writing my blog, I continued serving as a worship leader and I continued working at Agrium.
And all three of these occupations are going really well, I have to say. I’m growing at work and I’m growing in ministry, and you’d think that would be enough.
But the fact is God and I haven’t finished that conversation yet. Or at least, if He’s provided an answer, I haven’t had ears to hear it.
That’s how things stood until a couple of months ago.
You see, in January, my friend and pastor, Stephen Hambidge, gave a barnburner of a sermon about the calling of Andrew the Disciple in John 1:29-42. He pointed out that Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist when Jesus first met him.
And in light of that, Stephen speculated that Andrew was on a quest for something big. Something profound. Something he couldn’t put into words, but something he would know when he saw it.
And while Andrew clearly liked what he saw in John, he also knew that even in John the Baptist, he still hadn’t found what he was looking for.
At this point, Stephen interrupted his own sermon, and played a video of the U2 song of that name: But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Hearing that song, I was taken right back to the foot bridge at Entheos, on my second Cursillo weekend. ‘Jesus, I still haven’t found the clarity I’m looking for. What’s the deal here?’ I asked.
Once the song ended, Stephen resumed his sermon and talked about the bit where Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist are trailing behind Jesus. When Jesus sees them, they stammer out, ‘Uhh, where are you staying?’ He simply replies, ‘Come and see.’
Hmmm. Never thought of that…
So I arranged to have a sit-down with Pastor Stephen on this topic. I asked him if he thought I’d make a good clergyman, and I gave him explicit permission to give me a ‘definitely not’, but he didn’t. He looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Yes I do!’
And in hindsight, I think he’d had this answer at the ready for years, and was just waiting for me to ask the question.
So who’s really been waiting on whom, Jesus?
Anyway, Stephen and I talked details and logistics, and then I had a good talk with Karen, and we decided that I’m probably better suited to be a priest than a deacon. We also decided that since our kids are well into their school careers now, it wouldn’t be practical for me to go away to seminary full-time until they finish high school. Ian just started Grade 7, so that puts us at least six years out from Day One.
I might be able to get a head start locally, of course, and those options are on my radar screen for sure. But I’m not rushing down any of those paths yet either, because long, long before we get to Day One, there’s a whole lot of discernment that has to happen.
On that note, I’ve reached out to many of my friends, at church and in the Cursillo community. I’ve asked them to pray about this for Karen and me, and to let us know if they get a sense of God’s will for us on this issue – in either direction.
I guess I’m making the same request of all of you, too. If you can keep us in your prayers, and let us know if you get a sense of what God might have in mind here, we’re all ears.
But you don’t really have to rush, I guess, because with six years to go before Day One, God knows we have time.
Or do we?
As a friend from church pointed out a couple months ago, God feels no obligation to confine Himself to our expectations about how long things should take – and thankfully, that goes both ways. So while Karen and I are pondering the question of ‘if’, we’re also trying to keep our ears open about the question of ‘when’.
In closing, my point tonight really isn’t to announce my potential candidacy for the priesthood, but to point to and underscore the faithfulness of God.
He was there with me when I first asked the question. He was there with me through three years of waiting, doubt and disillusionment (and expectancy, excitement and joy). He was there when I finally got up the nerve to ask somebody. And He’s with me – and with you – from here on out.
But I’m also here to confess something.
Sometimes, I play the ‘What If’ game.
What if I hadn’t waited three years to get this ball rolling? You see, my pastor, Stephen Hambidge, was the Spiritual Director on Jack Goodall’s weekend when I first started to wonder about this.
What if instead of going to the foot bridge to ask Jesus about this on that break, I’d have pulled Stephen into the fireside room and asked him what he thought, then and there?
My kids were young enough that maybe we wouldn’t have had to wait until they were done high school before we hit Day One.
What if by waiting three years to get up the gumption to ask someone, I’ve actually delayed doing what God wants me to do for nine years?!?
As Steven Furtick said in a sermon a few months ago, ‘What If?’ is Fear’s greatest hit.
What we all need to do is throw that record away. The song I need to listen to as I move through this discernment process, and the one we all need to listen to throughout our life, is Faith’s greatest hit. It’s called ‘What Now?’
So whatever is behind us, God is in front.
Whatever good decisions, whatever bad decisions and whatever indecision clutters our past, God can work with that. He can and will redeem that junk, and use it to shape us into the people He created us to be.
That is music to my ears, and I think I might not be the only one who needed to hear that.
Peace be with you.