Posts tagged ‘journey’

The Call

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”   Genesis 12:1

The word “leave” evokes anxiety in me. I had two older sisters who would leave me to go to a boarding high school every year. I have fond memories of spending summers with my grandfather on the farm when I was a kid, but leaving was always difficult. My first airplane flight was to Atlanta when I was 16 years old to see my sister and her newborn son. I will never forget the sadness of leaving them the day it was time for me to go home. And then there was the day when it was time to leave home for college. It was a scary place. I had never lived apart from my parents, and now I was in another state – all alone. When I arrived at college I discovered my roommate didn’t want to room with me. And so there I was, in a new place, feeling rejected and all alone as my parents had to leave for home. 

And yet, with every “leave” is a new horizon. I would leave my grandparents to enjoy my friends at home. When it was time to leave my sister and nephew, I found myself back in high school. When it was time to leave home for college, I found a roommate who has been a friend for life. But even experiencing the gain that can come from leaving, I still find it very difficult.

As I consider how God calls us, I find it interesting that His call often begins with the word “leave.” We see it in Genesis 12:1. And every call from God that I have experienced has began with the same word, “leave.” God told me to leave my dream of being a doctor behind as I went to Andrews University to study theology. He then gave me permission to leave the pursuit of pastoral ministry in favor of medical school. But then He clearly called me to leave my medical practice many years later. I was in the wilderness of uncertainty about my future for over 7 months when I received a call from the Richland Adventist Church to be their pastor. Perhaps the most difficult call from God for me to hear and process was the call to leave this very church. But it wasn’t until I could clearly identify the fact that God was calling me to leave Richland that I could grasp where to go with any clarity. 

And so before I was ever called to Denver, I was called to leave Richland. When you are in a place you love, leaving is sad. When you are with people you love, leaving brings anxiety. But when God calls, He also supplies the courage, strength, wisdom, and gifts necessary for the way forward. He also gives peace in the journey. Following God’s call ultimately brings peace that covers any anxiety, and gives joy that alleviates any sadness. It is this peace and joy that ultimately confirms the call, and for me, the very existence of God in my life.

Perhaps, just perhaps, God calls us to leave what we are doing to follow Him in new adventures because He is calling all of us to leave this world for His Kingdom. On that glorious day when Jesus returns to gather those who have responded to His call home, we will have to first leave this home. Are you ready to leave? Are you listening for His call?


The Journey to Freedom

We would drive by the home of our dentist on our way to church every week. It was a large brick home with a slate roof. I can still picture it in my mind today as a symbol of wealth, status, and position. This beautiful home backed up to the most prestigious country club in town. Very fitting for such a stately home. And so began my quest for the comforts in life that only money can provide. Turning away from God’s calling into pastoral ministry, I pursued a degree in medicine. But what I was really pursuing was wealth, status, and position that I had seen on my way to church week after week throughout my childhood.

At first it may seem unusual that God’s calling in my life would be derailed on the way to church. But in actuality, my journey is quite typical. You see, it’s the distractions along the way that often derail us from the path God knows is best for us. When we focus on the distractions in life, we lose our focus on God’s path. We may be on our way to church, we may even get to church, but if we are focused on the distractions along the way we will not be free to focus on Him. We celebrate our freedom to focus on the distractions not realizing we are becoming enslaved by them. This is why Paul writes in Galatians 4:9, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

It doesn’t matter how good and even noble the distractions happen to be, like a career in medicine or a lovely home on a golf course. If they displace your focus from God’s path, then they will enslave you. The reality is that God knows your heart better than you do. He knows that I struggle with wealth, status, and position – all the things a career in medicine could give me. That is exactly why He called me into pastoral ministry. Wealth, status, and position are “worthless elementary principles of the world.” I have found freedom in Jesus Christ to be the enduring principle of life and the path I truly desire to follow. It’s a journey of faith. It’s an adventure in trust. Ultimately, it is the pursuit of freedom.

This is why I find the $1.8 million capital campaign for the expansion of our church to be, for me, an exercise of my freedom in Jesus. Today I drive by beautiful homes occupied by physicians on my way to church every day. But rather than distractions, they are now reminders of my calling and the freedom I have in Jesus to stay on His path for me. This is why I can give to this capital campaign from my retirement plan funded by my career in medicine. It has a certain poetic justice. It is an expression of the freedom I have found in God’s way for my life. 

This week in the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Ron Sydney will be sharing his journey to freedom in Jesus. If you are in the area, come each night at 6:30 pm, March 15-23. You might just discover what distractions are derailing you from God’s path for your life. May you find freedom from the distractions of the “worthless elementary principles of the world.”

What Does God Expect?… Journey

Looking back over the course of my life, there is not one thing I can say that I accomplished on my own without help from others. In grade school I can remember every one of my teachers who helped me understand math, reading, and how to write. In fact, the learning process itself demonstrates the need we have for others. Every invention ever made has come as the result of its inventor building upon the successes and the failures of others. I think of the professors I had in college who taught me how to think critically, read expansively, and write creatively. And then I think of fellow students who shared their knowledge with me which helped me get through calculus and physics classes.

Once in medical school, there were countless professors, medical doctors, and fellow students that helped me understand what would have otherwise remained secret and hidden from me. However, it was in medical school that I learned the most from those who knew the least. These were people who did not know medicine, but asked questions that I often had never thought to ask myself and didn’t know the answers without research. These people pushed me to become better. Some of them were brilliant in different fields of study, but knew very little about my field of study and yet they were part of my journey to become an accomplished physician. Some them were high school dropouts or even drug addicts, but they often taught me more than my professors of medicine. These people were my patients. Without their questions, their acceptance of me as a physician in training, their willingness to journey with me, my journey would not have been complete.

Of all the patients with which I interacted during my training, one stands out as teaching me the importance of seeing each person as an individual who has intrinsic value and who will add to my journey. Prior to Mr. Keith, I had seen patients as patients to be treated, not as people to be known and respected. I had seen me helping them rather than us helping each other. I had seen a patient-doctor relationship where I treated their illness rather than a person-person relationship where we each contributed to the other’s understanding of life and the journey we are on.

As a medical student on duty this particular night, I was given the task of drawing blood from Mr. Keith for an important lab study. He was a slight man in his eighties residing in the ICU who did not respond to my greeting. I briefly explained what I needed to do. He still did not respond. I prepped his arm and punctured his skin with the needle as I had done on a hundred other patients. But no blood came into the syringe. I advanced the needle further without success. I withdrew the needle slightly and repositioned it, without success. I removed the needle & re-prepped his arm repeating the process again, without success. I went to his other arm repeating the entire process, without success. I spent 30 minutes with Mr. Keith trying to find one of his veins while he laid motionless with his eyes shut. I finally left his bedside without completely my task.

Later that morning we did rounds on all the patients. Once we made it to Mr. Keith’s bedside I had to explain how I had failed to draw his blood during the night. The attending physician simply said to try again after rounds. At this point the heretofore motionless Mr. Keith sat upright in his bed and said, “Don’t let that guy stick me again!” I didn’t, at least that day. But over the course of the next several weeks, Mr. Keith became a mentor to me. I got to know him as a person rather than a patient. He had served in the calvary during World War I. His wife had died a few years earlier and now he lived alone. He was an intelligent, witty, resourceful man who taught me how to see obstacles as opportunities. It was a privilege to journey with Mr. Keith for over two months.

I’m thankful for Mr. Keith who taught me that the destination may be important, but it’s the journey that really matters. And our mentors are all around us. How is your journey? Who is mentoring you today?

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