There is a sign in the new house that I received from a friend in 2019. The sign helped me with perspective on days that I seemed to be losing mine at the time. In the midst of having things in storage and moving in 2020 the sign was tucked away, and easily forgotten from the previous year.
Recently I ran across the sign again, and it grabbed my attention like neon lights. What is saving your life today?
What is saving your life today?
As we all can testify in some way or another, 2020 has been a really unusual year. In many ways it has been harder on others than myself. As I write what follows, by no means do I want to dismiss in any way the great sorrow and sickness related to Covid. I am so sorry for the loss encountered by all.
What saved my life in 2020 was Covid and finishing the new house. Yes, I did say that, and I will explain both dynamics.
In 2019 we sold our home in Newburgh, IN and moved to the west side of Evansville, IN. As we settled into our cozy basement apartment, we began to really crunch down with getting the new homestead complete. Then came Covid. Rick and I sat on the couch together to pray.
As a nurse, I immediately asked to be reassigned to a Respiratory Clinic that saw patients with Covid related symptoms and Covid outpatients. My request was quickly approved, and I was transferred. The Clinic operated from 8am to 8pm, sometimes seven days a week. To work schedules at the clinic were flexible, which gave me time for house building. With much humility I can now say that building a house from the ground up without a contractor, and while using random sub-contractors, is an enormous task. As we built, Rick and I really didn’t have time to think often about Covid, nor were we isolated in the basement apartment. We both kept working, isolated at the new home site. In this way, I can say that Covid and house building saved my life.
Rick and I praise the Lord that none of our immediate family have had to go through Covid symptoms.
The grandchildren are as precious as ever, always such a great encouragement. Since the opening back up of our local community in May, we have been be able to be with them face to face, some more than others, but we count it a blessing and a privilege at every occurrence. Cora 8, Pru 4, Teddy 3 and Jensen 2, are each a joy. They are gifted and unique in their own ways, just like their parents. It is awesome to be included among them.
Seed 4 Life
Biblical Counseling and Discipleship
In February of 2020, I completed my training to incorporate Biblical Counseling into how we at Seed 4 Life disciple others. Dan, a member of our Seed 4 Life Board, attended the training with me as well. Since then, Troy, another member of our Board has attended the training. He will complete his preparations in February 2021.
The training has allowed us to better understand what to deposit in others through the discipleship process, that they might presently live a balanced and equipped life. We have learned a set of skills that we can use to help others interpret their story through the Story of God. It works really well. Let me explain.
During my 10-months of Biblical Counseling training, I had the gift of being mentored by a teacher named Mark Maulding. Through the more than 25 years of refining his skills as a Biblical Counselor, Mark passed on to me indispensable lessons for helping others. On our last night in class together, I thanked him in front of my classmates for showing me a way that the lessons of my life could be organized to be a deep and lasting help to others. My words were inadequate for what Mark had done.
Thousands of Questions
God has trusted me to help others since the mid-80’s. Through the many years of being available to others and God, I have accumulated thousands of questions from people. Sometimes the questions were about things like why do we pray before a meal. Other times they were a little harder, like do people born in the United States have an advantage to know or hear about God. Still other questions were deeper, harder; pressing me to listen to God beyond where reason alone could take me. Along the way, I have been relentless to write most everything down; recording both the questions and my discoveries in order to give an answer in my own words.
During my time of counselor training, it was as if God took a great many of my personal discoveries and assembled them in a very exact way to be shared. In 2020 I had the opportunity to use the way I learned from Mark, my mentor at school, to help others. (Note: some of you will rejoice with me about the following connections I learned while being with Mark. Foundational to what he taught me is our identity in Christ. Mark has been a friend of Pres Gillham since childhood. Mark was also a college student in the classes of Professor Bill Gillham.)
Once my training was over, it took the gentle but firm encouragement of a few friends to make myself available to others, to begin practicing what I had learned. Three women were my first encouragers; A woman at work, a woman who is a close friend to Donna and I, and of course, Donna. They each told me to go for it. “You need to be willing to talk with anyone,” they said. I didn’t know if I agreed with the anyone part, but they would be proven right.
During 2020, and continuing now, there has not been a week where God has not given me favor to walk with someone through the process God has given me to share. So, what is the process?
The Biblical Discipleship/Counseling Process
Following are the milestones. There are a few custom fit steps added in between these milestones as I learn who the disciple is and how they function.
I start the 6 to 8-month process with learning their story. Next, we focus on the story of their formative years. From there, we discover and diagram their self-reliant patterns (flesh). That shows them how they are programmed by the enemy to try to get their needs for love, acceptance, worth and security met outside of trusting Jesus to be their source.
The disciple and I will now dig deeper into their identity in Christ, and why it matters. Twenty-five years of learning and discussing identity with Bob Warren has given this subject a needed and lasting foundation in me to share.
Mark taught me that he has observed we all believe lies, what he describes as three core lies. One lie is about God. Another is about ourselves, and another is about others. The disciple/counselee and I now work to discover their unique lies.
We then begin the process of replacing these lies with the truth, the Biblical truth, hence Biblical Counseling. Next, we move to learning to better recognize God speaking to us. From there we are ready for any number of very vulnerable things to happen, because we have now moved beyond reason alone to experience God as someone we can trust at the most intimate of levels.
Maybe the disciple needs to forgive, as everyone does. Maybe the disciple needs to allow the Word implanted in him to become a liberty leading to loving God, themselves and others well. Maybe depression or grief is in their way. Regardless of what they need, the point is they are now in the place were becoming balanced and equipped in Christ is their reality. The concerns they came to me with, if any, are now not so scary. As one person said, “If you had told me when I called (7 months earlier) that I would be at this place (of rest, of trusting God with my original concern) today. I would have said you’re nuts!” Another person said it this way, “My wife and I never imagined we would be at this place (trust, peace, contentment) with God, and one another.”
Regardless of how often or the number of weeks we meet, our weekly thoughts from the Gospel of John are the thread we share at the beginning of each discussion.
In 2020 it was my joy and encouragement to meet one-on-one weekly with men my age, engaged couples, and single men and woman 18-32 years of age. Donna and I ask them to initially come visit us for the day, and/or stay the night. From there we meet weekly on Zoom. In fact, we were zooming in 2019 before zooming was cool in 2020!
Come One, Come All, See the Amazing Father
Last fall, while reading the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), a new thought came to my mind. The older son had misunderstood who and what his father is about.
The thought got my attention, and I spoke through my spirit to God. Speaking almost in the form of a question, I said, “You wrote a letter (the Bible) to all men in an effort to be understood. You want to be known.” More thoughts entered my mind. The Letter is a personal way to know God, perhaps more intimately than He can be known through creation. Even more than these two ways, creation and the Bible, Father God revealed Himself more intimately when He changed forms and came to live among humanity as a child in the person of Jesus, Philippians 2. The three; creation, the Letter of Scripture and Jesus, are like progressive explanations that mankind might understand what they need to know about Father God.
This thought of a father having been misunderstood grabbed the attention of my soul for two reasons. Being a father myself, I can perhaps appreciate the Father’s desire to be known. I, too, want to be known by my children. I, too, have been misunderstood. Unlike God, the misunderstandings are sometimes my fault. In addition, I am also among the guilty who have misunderstood Father. As a result, I have misrepresented Him. I have also missed out on parts of Him that He wanted to share them with me.
The Father explained through the life of Jesus
John 1:35-39 Two of John’s disciples
The words and actions of Jesus
Jesus acknowledged two men that were following very near to Him, verse 38.
Father sees and responds to a reach towards Him.
The kindness of Jesus to take notice of these men tells us the Father is very aware of a soul moving towards Him. Jesus did not keep walking until they could catch up in order to speak with Him. Jesus spoke first. Though He had His back towards them, Jesus was aware of them. He turned to speak with them as they were following.
The words and actions of Jesus
Jesus pressed the two men to make a decision and tell to Him what they were looking for as they followed Him. Jesus also allowed them to call Him teacher, verse 38.
Father welcomes intimacy with us.
The initiative of Jesus not only tells us He is jealous for our soul (James 4:5), but His initiative teaches us that Jesus welcomes and encourages us to intimacy. His question to them was framed as a kind invitation into His world. Jesus made Himself available. He didn’t put them off or say I need to finish that up… or I’m too busy right now.
I am reminded of the years when I first began learning how to be a father. Since becoming a parent, I have regularly awakened before my family each morning in order to get some time alone with the Lord. When our sons became toddlers, and were able to get themselves out of bed, they would often slip into the kitchen to find me talking with the Lord. I was more than willing to stop what I was doing to listen to the boys, help them, or eagerly welcome them onto my lap.
If our sons had a need that took me away from the kitchen, it was more than okay. I believed the Father was pleased with my heart towards Him, and the boys. Besides that, if the needs of the boys took me somewhere else in the house the Father was there with us too.
Through the early morning times with our sons, the Father made me aware of something very important to Him. As I was making myself available, and welcoming the boys, they may come to learn the Father welcomes them as well.
The words and actions of Jesus
Jesus answered their question as they indirectly answered His. He allowed them to follow Him to where He was staying for the night, verse 39.
Father is humble and mild. He is easy to gain an audience with when you ask.
Jesus was courteous, but quick to invite them to come and see where He was staying. The essence of what Jesus said to them could be paraphrased like this, if you come with me, and I want you to, I’ll show you (where I am staying).
Is it true that the Father wants to spend time with me? Does the Father want me to come with Him to where He is going? Is He okay being around me just to be with me? Yes, yes and yes!
The desire of these men was to receive instruction from Jesus. They would not press rudely upon Him when it was not proper. When they asked Jesus “Where are you staying,” they were hoping to get more time with Him later. They were looking for more time than they could have now in a short conversation along their way. The men desired a fixed time with Jesus where they could share guarded thoughts and questions with Him. Even more, they wanted to sit with Him, and learn to live by His instructions.
The words and actions of Jesus
Jesus allowed them to stay and visit until sundown, probably about two hours, verse 39.
Father embraces the opportunities of the present.
While Jesus was courteous and confidently extended His invitation to come and see, He also received the opportunity of the moment. Through His intimacy with the Father, Jesus received the appointed time to meet with these men.
The House and the Barn
The house was built as a place for our family to gather. The barn was built to give the people coming for discipleship and counsel a place to retreat to for a season. The house is done, for all practical purposes. The barn is not done, although mostly it is on the outside. Our aim is to complete the barn in 2021. For now, the open floor plan of the house, the spare bedrooms, two large covered porches and my office give us many great spaces for family and guests.
One of the Best Years
It is with much respect and empathy for others that Donna and I tell you that in many ways 2020 has been one of the best years of our adult lives. I have been very guarded about saying that until the last two weeks.
I started saying it when I was recently asked a question by one of my supervisors. He was talking with another supervisor about how hard 2020 has been, and it has been. He asked me to speak about my struggle with 2020. I affirmed his perspective, and kindly added what follows…
2020 has been one of the best years of my life. There has not been a week where counseling/discipling another did not happen. People leaned into our world in 2020 more than at any other time in our married lives.
We finished building our home, and the shell of a beautiful barn. God did that even as we could not consistently buy screws for the decks, or appliances for the kitchen. We touched every board you will walk on when you are there, and every wall you will enjoy. It was the hardest thing we have ever done physically and emotionally. It took thirteen months, and God did it through us and many others in a circumstance none of us could have imagined! I am proud of Him and us.
In 2020, we have both come to be more aware of God than at any point before. As a result, we are better listeners to Him and you. We enjoy our jobs, both of which are new this year. We have bed-rocked two truths; every story matters and never allow someone’s story to become the label you place on them. Otherwise, you cannot give them love as God loves them.
Yes, the pandemic has hindered and hurt us.
We had three lives dear to us depart for glory in 2020. Thankfully, none were caused by Covid, but Covid restrictions kept us from celebrating their lives as we would have liked. Donna’s dad, Frank, and a family member we all called Grammy, went to be in the presence of Jesus in 2020. A friend my age, Kincey Green, made the move to glory, too.
Donna and I both changed jobs. Mine was forced, and unexpected; both for the first time in my life. That left me unemployed for a while. It was no fun to be me. Our water was shut off to the new house, as our first bill was unpaid due to the USPS continuing to deliver mail to our old address even now 6 months after we have moved. Since moving to our new address seven internet companies have insisted our house is unserviceable. A neighbor told me they are wrong. He proved to be right.
And on we could go with things that have not gone our way. Yet I promise you that many of these stories has an upside, a God side beyond reasonable explanations. Come sit on the porch, and we’ll compare notes while being encouraged together.
Life is seldom a highlight real, but we set our minds on what is of good report. We make it our aim to submit and depend upon the life found only in Christ Jesus. Thank you for encouraging our hearts. Some of you do so with regular notes through the mail, while some come from hours (and states) away to spend a few days, and others from across town to spend the evening. Our lives are richer by the fragrance of Christ with and in you. May Donna and I be the same fragrance to you.
SOME PRAYER NEEDS:
- For Rick and I to have favor and wisdom to be a help to others as Rick disciples and counsels
- Discernment as we, along with the ministry board, seek the Lord Jesus about each step
- Provisions to complete and maintain Seed 4 Life on the new land
- And a host of other unknowns (unknown to us), but we are sure God can make you aware of
JESUS • NO OTHER NAME
Seed 4 Life • PO Box 54 • Boonville, Indiana • 47601
Underhill Home • 299 West Tennyson Road • Boonville, Indiana • 47601
firstname.lastname@example.org • 812-319-4907 • email@example.com • 812-453-6377