Prayer Walking

Summer is such a wonderful time of the year!  We are able to be out and about and visit with neighbors. We get to enjoy the bike trails, and lakes, and play outside.  The next time you are going for a walk, why not also pray?  You can let what you see inform how you pray.  Here is an example:  If you walk past a house that has toys, and strollers in the driveway you can pray that the children enjoy good health to play and that they are blessed with friendships, and are loving toward each other.  You can pray for wisdom for the parents as they raise the children. You can pray that God would provide for their every need.  If you see a home with a beautiful garden, you can thank God for the beauty in His creation and for the hands that planted the flowers.  If you know the families that live in the houses you can pray for them by name and that they would know just how much they are loved by their Savior Jesus.  You get the idea!  You can pray for the police officers and firefighters in your city, that they would be safe.  Pray for local businesses to thrive.  Pray for our communities to be filled with love and not hate, and that people would be kind to one another and feel valued. You can pray scripture by placing the person’s name right in the passage.  For example:  “Lord, I pray that you would open _______ ‘s eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in you.”  Acts 26:18

 

As we walk through our community talking to God about what we see He begins to soften our hearts for our community.  We pray for ourselves as well, that we would have God’s heart for others and see people like He does.  As we walk and pray it helps us to be more aware of our surroundings.  He helps us SLOW down and take notice.  Thank God for where you see shalom, that is wholeness, or peace where God is working.  And also recognize where there is Broken Shalom, the potential for God to work and restore what is broken.  

 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16    We can approach God Almighty with confidence.  Prayer is a powerful gift that we have been given.  “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17  What a promise, our God hears us!  Even if you can’t get out and walk around, you have an amazing gift to offer others as you can sit and pray for them.  

 

If you aren’t sure where to start, just begin by saying thank you for all that you see.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6   Instead of carrying the burdens and worries that you have turn them over to your Heavenly Father who cares for you!  

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7  

 

The next time you take a walk on your own, with a friend or your whole family… why not give it a try and talk to God as you walk!  

 

Lessons Learned: The Power of a Story

Last week I shared a portion of Pastor Tony Kobak’s boat story. Just to give you a quick review:

"Tony what is one thing that you would like God to give you for ministry?”  I asked.

Tony said, "A Boat".  Everyone laughed as it sounded like a silly request.  Jeff then asked Tony "Why a boat?"   

Tony responded "It would give me time away from the congregation for prayer and an opportunity to minister missionally to individuals who might be more willing to go fishing than step in a church." One of Tony’s classmates Phil Robarge then said, “Tony that is stupid, I bet you a 12 pack you never get a boat."  

2 years after that boat was prayed for, Pastor Kobak (Tony) was given a pontoon boat by a dying friend as a part of his inheritance. A while later, Pastor Tony baptized Todd Gloth, who learned about Jesus on Tony’s boat. (You can read the entire portion of the story from Tony’s perspective here).

Here are 3 of my favorite “lessons learned” as I reflect on Tony’s story:

#1.  Ask specifically for the “crazy” request.

Do you ever refrain from asking God for something because you think that request too small? Stop it. Start asking. Will He grant your requests? Maybe. Maybe not. What a blessing is ours, though, when we believe that God cares about every aspect of our lives, every desire of our hearts. It is in the asking where we put into practice the confidence that God owns every boat and that…

God gives boats.

#2.  Look at your life in total.

Does God care about boats? Yes! Even more, He cares about the people who will use those boats, who will engage with each other on those boats, who will discuss the realities of life in Jesus on those boats. Get out of your church box, thinking that only what happens in church is “spiritual.” Stop compartmentalizing your life. God’s Kingdom is breaking out all over. Every provision in your life belongs to God, and can be used by God for His purposes.

God uses boats.

#3.  Stories help us put #1 and #2 into practice.

Already, within a couple of weeks of reading this story, the impact of his story on others has been inspiring. As Pastor Kobak’s story has been shared in multiple conversations, people are considering what their “boat prayer” would be.  When I think of what might have been missed in conversations, in understanding, if Pastor Kobak would not have shared this story, I am more convinced than ever that we need more stories, not less.

What’s YOUR “boat”?

Go here http://www.livelifetogether.com/stories to share your story. Click on the “Submit a Story” button at the top of the page, and share it. 

 

25th Anniversary of Ordination

 

I was humbled and honored to have so many people join me in praising God on the event of my 25th Anniversary of Ordination. The Meyer family has been richly blessed to follow Jesus together over those years. They sure go by quickly!

I received a priceless gift last Sunday to mark this milestone. We refer to it in our household as the “25th Year Book”. It is full of cards, letters, stories, memories, and blessings.

I would like to share a portion of one of those letters from a pastor in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I’ll have a few quick learnings from his story to share with you at the end. I met this pastor a few years ago as a participant in our first PLI Learning Community. From the beginning he was a reluctant participant…to say the least. Maybe a better term would be resistant. We struggled against each others’ expectations. I remember vividly the incident he shared in his letter to me. At the end of our two-year learning community I had little confidence that any of our efforts with PLI did much to equip him or ready him for his ministry moving forward. I was stunned last Sunday when I read this:

 

 

“I remember one session when Jeff asked us "What is one thing that could help you in ministry?  One thing, why not pray about it and see what God will do.  Well if you don’t know me, I am naturally a smart aleck and often say exactly what I am thinking.  Jeff called me out for some reason to be the first one out of the box and said, "Tony what is one thing that you would like God to give you for ministry?  

I said, "A Boat".  Everyone laughed as it sounded like a silly request.  Jeff then asked me "Why a boat?"   

I responded, "It would give me time away from the congregation for prayer and an opportunity to minister missionally to individuals who might be more willing to go fishing than step in a church." One of my classmates Phil Robarge then said, Tony that is stupid,  I bet you a 12 pack you never get a boat."  

And THEN I was SHOCKED when Jeff said in response, "That is great, let's ALL pray that God provides Tony with a boat!"   Yes, we prayed and in the back of my head, I thought Jeff was crazy for encouraging me and my insane ideas.  

Well, what happened 2 years later shocked me.  I received a call from someone in my past before I went into ministry.  A friend of mine from many years ago lost his battle with cancer.  His wife called me up and said that before he died he asked his wife if I might want his pontoon boat. This shocked me.  We had not talked for years.  I think I may have only gone fishing on his boat once.  But he knew we had young kids when we went to the seminary and now we were in ministry and wondered if I might want his boat.

I was shocked.  I didn’t expect or even think that God would provide me/ give me a boat.  And yet God did.  I truly credit this gift to God being at work in my life.  God is at work in Jeff's life and the ministry he is providing.  Here is the cool part. This past Christmas I baptized Todd Gloth, a man that I took on that boat.  REALLY! It happened!   

I have been amazed at how God has used me and my congregation after going thru PLI led by Jeff.  Over the past 2 years thru the intentional idea of Missional living along with the Holy Spirit our church in Cape Girardeau has grown tremendously.  We have added over 80 new members in the last 18 months.  I have been blessed through the skills and training that I have received through Jeff and his ministry team at PLI.  Thanks for all of your work that you have done for Christ.  God's blessings.”  Rev. Tony Kobak, Hanover Lutheran Church, Cape Girardeau, MO

What lessons do you learn about leadership, about missional living, about expectations, as you reflect on Pastor Tony’s experience? Read next week’s Spiel to hear some of mine.

Pastor Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
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Weathering the Storm: Walking Together through Abuse

As I write this article, I’m looking through the window in my office, observing a rain storm that began quite suddenly: within 10 minutes of having looked outside to see sunshine, I witnessed swirling tree branches, a rapidly darkening sky, and a heavy downpour of rain. This morning when I left my home, the weather was predictably sunny and warm, conditions that told me the day ahead would be bright and calm. How many days do we step outside with a general sense that our day will progress without a storm, without giving much thought to how things could change over time? Unless we see or can predict inclement weather when we begin our day, we often feel there is no reason to expect a major change.

 

But what if we think we’re equipped, we think we have a good sense of how our environment will shape up, but suddenly things shift, our surroundings become dark, frightening, and dangerous?  We would, understandably, be fearful and might feel quite stuck. What would we find most comforting? I suspect it would not help us to hear someone from outside of our storm say, “Just leave, get out!” or “I saw this coming, why didn’t you?” In fact such a response might lead us to feel quite alone in our darkness. What if, on the other hand, a friend or family member reached out and told us, “I’m concerned for your safety, and I’m here for you whenever you need me.” Then, even if we weren’t prepared or able to find our way out of the storm at that moment, we’d know someone cared enough to take the journey with us when we’re ready.

 

Perhaps by now you’ve guessed I’m not speaking only about weather. Since October of 2016, I’ve had the privilege to volunteer at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) in Madison, holding one-on-one appointments and safety planning with clients who want to learn how DAIS and other community service providers can empower them as they live through, or as they decide to leave, an abusive relationship. Through my training and conversations with victims, I’ve learned that an abusive relationship never begins as abusive - there is a cycle of behavior on the part of the abuser (only some of which is abusive), which the victim may not recognize for some time. It’s so important to recognize that no one chooses to be abused, and an abuse victim never holds culpability for that abuse, regardless of when or how it occurs.

 

Each victim has a unique perspective, one that not even those of us trained to recognize and respond to abuse can ever fully experience. Acknowledging this is the first, crucial step for those of us who want to help a victim of abuse. We may have ideas about how or why abuse is occurring, we may feel we know how best to respond to that abuse, and we may think that if someone doesn’t leave an abusive relationship they are somehow responsible for their situation. All of these assumptions are faulty, and they can be extremely detrimental if we allow them to color our interactions with victims of abuse. Instead, if a victim discloses their abuse to us, or if we only suspect it, we can show up in a way that will empower and support them. Here are three ways to do that:

 

  1. Take the time to listen, and offer a safe, comforting environment. Reassure them that you will keep their words confidential, that they are their own best decision maker, and that you are there to help if needed.

  2. Let the survivor guide the conversation and be the decision maker. Practice active listening. Whether a victim discloses or only implies abuse, let them know you’re concerned for their safety, and that you support them regardless of their decisions. Do not urge or push them into making a decision they may not be ready to make - doing so could put them in more danger.

  3. Provide DAIS resources. Provide a blue wallet card - available outside my office or on the bulletin board in the church kitchen (Fitchburg) - or recommend the DAIS Help Line (608-251-4445 or 800-747-4045), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Consider calling the Help Line yourself with any questions or fears you may be experiencing.

 

In an article entitled, “Preaching About Domestic Violence Is Hard - But We Must,” Pastor Phil Haslanger (Memorial UCC, Fitchburg), provides important context for the call to faith leaders - and we are all faith leaders, church family - to respond to domestic abuse:

We say that while we take the commitments of marriage very seriously, those commitments may not be used as leverage to keep someone in an unsafe relationship. We say that while we value forgiveness, that does not free anyone from the consequences of mistreating another. We say that whatever understanding one has of the roles of spouses in a marriage, that does not give permission for one spouse to engage in violent or abusive behavior toward the other. We preach because if we keep silent, if we ignore the human cost and spiritual degradation of domestic violence, then we are failing the people we are called to serve.

 

As I finish writing, the sky has already begun to clear of clouds, not an hour after the storm began. How quickly my outlook turns sunny again. How quickly I forget that, for those whose lives are marked by frequent, unpredictable, violent storms, the sun grows ever dimmer despite its brightness for others, and fear of a storm dictates so many of their decisions. How vital it is for me to recall I can and ought to walk with those experiencing storms, without attempting to drag them along into my sunny perspective. Today I pray, “Jesus, help me to recognize that people struggling in abusive relationships have the ability and dignity to discern when and how to move toward the brightness of an environment where the storms of abuse aren’t as likely to occur. Grant me your strength and lens of unconditional love so that I might lend my ears to listen and my hands for support.”
 

2017 Graduates

 

This spring, Higher Ground was able to celebrate some talented, faithful, compassionate young adults as they graduated from high school. We are so proud of these students and would ask you to join us in recognizing who they have become as children of God, and also in praying for them as they begin new chapters in their lives.   I am honored to highlight these students for you, so you can celebrate their achievements as well. This year, I asked their parents to take time to consider who God created their child to be. What makes this student unique? What special contribution has God called your child to add to His kingdom? What three words best describe your child? Here are our 2017 high school graduates!
   

JENNA ACKER: Independent, Adventurous, Compassionate

                Jenna, daughter of Ray Acker and Sharrie Nechvatal, is driven by her compassion for all of God’s creation.  She loves traveling and camping. She is devoted to caring for animals of all kind, especially her childhood dog, Piper. On mission trips, Jenna could be found caring for and comforting pets and strays alike just as often as she was pouring into the people we were serving. Jenna has a unique way of being able to see the best in people and see them through God’s eyes. She especially enjoys working with older adults and hopes to use her CNA license to work in a nursing home this summer.  Jenna was created with athletic talent as well, using that specifically on Verona’s High School Cheer Team as well as the LaCrosse team. An active leader in Higher Ground, Jenna enjoyed going on the mission trips where she was able to put her compassion for others into action. Jenna plans to attend UW Platteville in the fall to study Psychology and Special Education.

   

KATE HETTENBACH: Adventurous, [Strong in] Faith, Compassionate

                Kate, daughter of Bart and Karen Hettenbach, has always had her faith as a strong and central part of her life. She was faithful in being a part of the Higher Ground community, as a participant in mission trips, lifeGroups, retreats, and service projects. Kate has been created with strong leadership skills and developed those skills leading and planning for Higher Ground gatherings and as a middle school mission trip leader. She is a great model of servant-leadership.  Kate also developed those leadership skills while participating in DECA (a business club) in high school, holding leadership positions in the group and going to State competitions for 3 years.  Passionate about athletics, Kate participated on cross country, basketball, and track teams for West High, playing on the varsity teams for basketball and track. This fall, Kate will attend UW Whitewater to study Social Work.

   

BRYCE HOPPE: Hardworking, Inquisitive, Kind

                Bryce, son of Greg and Nikki Hoppe, has used his gifts both in the community and athletically. Bryce is passionate about swimming and theater. He was part of his high school swim team and USA swimming. He used his talent in swimming to work at the Ridgewood Pool and Verona Natatorium. Bryce also enjoyed using his gifts while participating with the Verona Area Community Theater. Created with a heart to serve others, Bryce also volunteered at the Badger Prairie Needs Network. This fall, Bryce will attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and plans to be part of their swim team as well.

   

RENATA JAEGER: Strong, Loyal, Compassionate

                Renata, daughter of Pete and Dannie Jaeger, loves music, theater,  and making the world a better place. She has a passion for justice, equality, and fairness. She believes everyone is a child of God and lives that out in how she serves and interacts with others. She has a strong work ethic and strives to show her best work in what she does. Renata has always wanted to explore different cultures and see different places where God is working. Renata loves kids, restoring justice, and seeing God’s world so mission trips have been a perfect avenue for her to use her talents! She attended all the high school trips and helped to lead the middle school trips. Renata was also created with gifts in art and music and enjoys expressing herself in these ways. She has been in performances at West High and has helped lead Higher Ground’s band for many years. Next year,Renata will attend UW-Madison to major in Dual Language Immersion Elementary Education with an emphasis on International Studies.

   

JACOB SCHAEFFER: Diligent, Takes Initiative, Determined

                Jacob, son of Timothy and Daris Schaeffer, has shown himself to be a mature, faithful, kind young man who has brought a welcome insight and steadiness to our Higher Ground community.  He loves sports, playing basketball for 1 year and soccer for sports. Jacob enjoys classical music and has also taken piano lessons. Passionate about history, Jacob enjoys reading stories from history with his family. When he was in 4-H, Jacob discovered he was good at archery, air rifle, and making rockets. Jacob has a servant heart, developed through 15 years in his AWANA community, and participation in FLAME (performing arts group) choirs. Jacob’s interests are in Math and Engineering, and he plans to pursue those interests next year through online classes or Madison College.

   
As I reflect on this year’s graduating class, three words come to mind – Compassionate, Motivated, Leadership. This group of students is motivated to live out their faith and work to make our world a better place. In each of them I see hearts that reflect Jesus’ - hearts of compassion and love, seeing others as God sees them. Their compassion and motivation combined has provided Higher Ground with fresh, bold leadership - servant leaders who go first, serve others, and model love in action. It has been an exciting journey watching these young people grow in their relationships with Jesus and explore the unique ways that God has created them. We don’t have to wait to see how God will use them in the future – we can tangibly see how God has used them to already impact our Church community, their neighborhoods, and our world. It has been a true honor and privilege to walk alongside and learn from these young people. Well done, good and faithful servants!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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