I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my life. This list includes but is not limited to: At the age of 11 a friend and I decided to pull the motor off of a lawnmower because it would smoke while running. In an afternoon, a friend and I had it apart and back together again and had fixed the problem. At 13 I got a riding mower out of the trash that didn’t run, fixed it and turned it into a “redneck go-cart”. At age 14 I began working on a farm and continued to work there throughout High School. Even though I was a young employee I began operating equipment that could pull a house off of its foundation and drove semi trucks on the highway to haul grain. At age 15, I had saved up enough money to buy my first car. A 1965 Ford Mustang. In the 3-4 years of owning it, I completely rebuilt the motor while working full time. At age 18, a buddy and I enlisted in the Air Force because we heard that they would pay for college. After being accepted and sent to San Antonio, during my last week of training I was medically discharged with athletic induced asthma (good bye free college). At 19, I started my own home renovation business. At age 20 I felt a call to go into the ministry and 2 weeks before classes started at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (College), I enrolled. At 21 I met the girl I would marry. In less than 2 years we were engaged, married and moved away from our friends and family so I could finish my degree at Trevecca Nazarene University. The morning of my wedding, I decided that it would be a great idea to go out water skiing and tubing with the guys in the wedding. Thankfully that event didn’t leave me with a broken nose and 2 surgeries to fix it like the time a few summers before.
Yes, I’ve done a lot of crazy things. But not one of those crazy things involves following God’s leading in my life. When I said yes to Him, it meant that I said yes to His possibilities, His dreams, His leading and His plans. I’ve seen some crazy things happen while following Him. I’ve seen sight restored (yup, this still happens!). I’ve seen marriages restored. I’ve seen the “prodigal son” come home. I’ve seen pastors and leaders walk away from the Lord and I’ve seen pastors and leaders lead God’s people through some pretty deep and rough waters. I’ve had the opportunity to serve with some pretty great leaders and people. And…. some not so great. I have been in the room when some took their last breath and the feeling of death was lingering in the air. I have also been the first person to visit with and hold a newborn before the extended family could make it in the room. Ministry is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Some things I’d rather not experience again. Others, I wish I could have stayed in that moment just a bit longer.
The dream of Restoration Farm is slowly becoming a reality. The praying, thinking, planning, talking, looking, praying, praying and more praying is taking shape. This past Sunday, I resigned as the administrative pastor at Bedford Church of the Nazarene. In making my resignation public, there’s a certain feeling that comes along with it. For me, it feels like I’m letting people down. I am a “do-er”. Do-er’s don’t like letting others down. They get a high off of getting things done and (in some way) pleasing those around them by accomplishing a task. But, when you tell people that you are serving that you’re leaving, there’s a huge sense of letting them down. It’s stressful. On the flip side, you know that you are doing exactly what God wants you to do but that doesn’t always make leaving any easier.
So, where are we going and what will we be doing? The next step for us to begin the foundational groundwork for Restoration Farm looks like me stepping out of “conventional ministry” to becoming a full time farmer. Yes, that’s right. A full time farmer. Do you remember reading that little line above that said, “At age 14 I began working on a farm.”? Well, a few months ago the farmer I worked for (who is more like a 2nd father to me) began asking about Restoration Farm and what we thought it may look like. In our conversation, he asked me if I would be willing to apprentice with him and, as time goes on, taking over the farm. Also in that discussion, we talked about the importance of what we feel God is leading us to and how Restoration Farm is a priority. He and his wife agreed and they also want to be a large part in making Restoration Farm become a reality. Through several more phone calls, meetings, dinners and spending some time praying together, we all (both of our families) feel that this is where God is leading us…
The picture above is an aerial image of the home-place. This is where I worked as a kid and where God is leading me back to. As I have spoken with my dad about this, he reminded me that God has different spiritual markers in our lives. God leads us to something at some point and even though we don’t know why we’re going through it, He, in some way, uses those points in our past to help us follow Him in the future. I had no idea why I worked on this farm in the past. I know I learned a lot about myself, the earth, farming and even the Lord. But there was no way for me to really know why God had me there until now. Dennis Kinlaw wrote about his perspective on following God. His analogy was that following God could best be understood as if we were walking backwards not able to see where we are being led with our arms and hands stretched out in the hands of the Father while you watch things unfold around you. In ministry that’s how we move forward more often than not. We walk, not being able to completely see where we’re going but completely trusting that He will guide our steps. As he places our feet where they need to go, we are able to see the things that He is making happen unfold. If it is difficult for you to understand that way, maybe it’s better like this. Sometimes the best way to see what God is doing is in the rear view mirror. Sometimes we get so focused on where we are going (or want to go) that we miss the best things God has for us and we can only see them in the “rear view mirror” of life.
This farm is a spiritual marker for me. All the things I learned about life and work weren’t in vain. The reason God had me there in my past was to help me to (in some way) see a part of His plan for Restoration Farm become a reality.
What “spiritual markers” have helped you? How long did it take for you to realize that He brought you through “that thing” so that you would be better on the other side? Take a minute to think about and maybe even pray about some of those things in your past. Then ask God to help you to see the possibilities for your future in light of that previous circumstance.
For me as a young boy, the farm was everything a young boy loves! Dirt, trucks, tractors, animals and doing things that you couldn’t do at home (or that your mom and dad wouldn’t let you do). Now, I see that same patch of ground as a place where God wants to build Restoration Farm. Will it happen overnight? In a year, two or even five? I have no idea! But what I do know is that my family and I are taking a leap of faithful obedience and saying “yes” to something others may see as crazy… again.
God, as my family and my heart are going through waves of every emotion imaginable, we are looking to you. We have dreamed about how Restoration Farm would begin to take shape but we could never have imagined it like this. You are so good! Lord, be with our friends and church family here in North Central Ohio. These people are spiritual markers that you have put in our lives for a distinct purpose at this specific time. I pray that you would provide for them just as you have provided for us. Your goodness is unmatched and I know that failing or giving up is not a possibility for you. I pray that as we take this complete leap of faith, your provisions would be evident and that every day we would give thanks for what you are doing. I continue to pray for the pastors that will be impacted for your glory by our leap of faith right now. Begin to encourage their hearts as you are encouraging ours. Amen.