Archive for August, 2009
Sunday, August 30th, 2009
John, what do you want? You cannot have it both ways.
Jonah 1:17; 2:1-10 – But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land
I can relate to Jonah!
I have been in the belly of the whale. This week has been one of the most challenging weeks I have faced in a very long time. Monday, my first day greeting customers with the intent of selling a car, started out with pretty good energy. By Tuesday I was experiencing a change of heart. Discouragement and grief replace my energy for the job I had taken. I began to seek the Lord while I was mowing my lawn. I poured my heart out to Him but, through the week of confusion, God hammered my heart. “What do you want John?” I have also been hammering God’s heart, ” You know where my heart is at God. How much freedom do I have to pursue my heart’s desire?”
The grief I was feeling went beyond what I have felt in a long time. As my wife and I were praying this morning, I said, “I sense that I am losing everything that is important to me”. Because of the heavy schedule and overwhelming commitment of this new job I have lost significant family time. I have lost contact with relationships that have become a strong support system for me. And not insignificantly, I am losing the mission the Lord laid on my heart. It has become severely challenged due to a lack of time and focus to put into it. I have experienced a significant number of hours each day standing on the sidewalk in front of the building praying and waiting for the potential of a buying customer. I felt trapped by the expectations and the reality of this kind of job. I felt lost in a world far away from my life calling and my heart’s desire.
When I entered the job at the car dealership, I did so quickly and had clouded eyes thinking that God was calling me to this to meet our financial needs and that He might have something in this for me that is important for my walk with him and for Grace Rivers. As I faced each day I had a different conversation with the Lord and actually I found that He was speaking to me in a fatherly way that I appreciated.
I had to evaluate who I am authentically. How did God create me and what is His calling on my life. I had no question about how I would answer that. Standing in front of the sales lot was certainly not energizing or fulfilling. I questioned whether or not I was just in an adjustment period and needed to stick with this since I started it. But my experience led to a deeper evaluation.
As I honestly looked down the road I could see that being at this job longer would not get better. I was fully capable of doing this job. I was slated for a department of sales that I knew I was capable of and would do so in a productive fashion. I had already made some friends and I knew that would help in this becoming more fulfilling. But as I honestly looked at the bigger picture I could see that the longer I was there, the further away from my heart I would be. I had to ask myself if I was willing to lose more of my heart and if God was actually saying He was changing my calling.
Oh, this is why I am feeling grieved. I was losing something. All that I have built up over the last year could be lost if I don’t get my butt up and accept the challenge that God has placed before me. He was asking me if I were willing to put the same energy into Grace Rivers that I would have to put into selling cars. I do not believe in my heart of hearts that God has placed me on this earth to sell cars. I would know that if it were true. He does give us the desires of our heart – He shows us what they are! I also have a responsibility to now engage my body and energy into that desire.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, a Wise Man, asked me what I had learned in my two weeks there. I didn’t have a full answer for him at the time but I believe God was truly speaking through Harvey Rosen. I learned how to step into this job that was clearly an open door, trusting God would lead me where He wanted me to go. I learned that there is potentially a kingdom value in everything we do. I learned that I can make a left turn going a different direction and how to trust God in that decision. I also learned that when I get a little way down the road I could make a u-turn and go back. I also learned that during that detour, God was present, available, and would take full advantage of the experience. I learned more about seeking God for my heart’s desire.
I am now what I believe is back on track but differently than before. I am motivated in a new way to seek something with all my heart. I am more trustful right now of God’s direction and of His plans for me. I also realize that I have some work to do.
I am more willing to be honest with myself, with my wife, others, and not the least, more honest with God. I am learning more about authenticity and transparency for sure.
My journey continues.
Friday, August 28th, 2009
During my short stay as a car salesman I went through the week long process of internet training modules and interaction with managers and other salesmen. I had entered into a brand new vocational experience. I discovered new people, a new environment and a totally new culture in every sense of the word. My mind felt the expansion joints discovering their limits.
One of the salesmen, Harvey Rosen, was sharing with me how glad he was to be working for this dealership. He mentioned he had worked for others but found this one particularly good to work with. I certainly felt more hopeful at that moment about the new method of gaining an income stream!
Harvey was helpful in other ways too. He was an older man who seemed very dedicated to his work. He was scurrying around each day with energy and sincerity about his job. Some people saw him as kind of a quirky guy, which he is, and kind of marveled at his part of the sales team being what it was.
After I had been there for about a week Harvey was sitting down outside on the bench and I sat down next to him. He looked at me with intense eyes and focused purpose. He said, “John, what have you learned this week”. I was shocked at the simplicity of his question and also shocked at the seriousness through which he asked it.
I said Harvey, I have learned a lot about the cars through the internet modules in Toyota University. He said, “That’s good John, what else have you learned?” He wasn’t going to take just one answer and through his questions, I searched my own experience.
I learned from Harvey more about not judging a book by its cover and not to take other peoples’ assessment of people for what they seemed to sense about someone.
It was at that point where my respect for Harvey went up tremendously. I found that maybe on the outside, Harvey was an older man with a slanted posture and a seemingly mumbling presence, but on the inside was as wise older man that maybe I could learn a lot from.
If nothing else, Harvey became one of the most sincere fellow salesmen I am working with. I believe it is his sincerity, commitment, and age old wisdom that helps him to sell cars. I would trust him!
Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
Being content with who we are only comes from knowing who we are to begin with!
I was getting to know a fellow salesman the other day at the car dealership, “Mark, I found a great way to communicate with my customers about buying cars.” I found that I can sell an experience. Cars are meant to be driven and for many customers they will buy a car because they have a personal experience that is satisfying to them.
Marks reply after I talked more about my ideas was, “John, I’m different than that. I am more of a nuts and bolts guy”. We discussed our differences and I told him that his ways are personal to who he is as a person.
I learned that in selling any product, each of us has an authentic platform that is personal to us. If I am trying to copy someone else’s’ personality or trying to model another person’s presentation I could come off to a customer as being insincere or fake.
I am finding my own place in the market place. I am trying to be honest about who I am and what I think and feel as I present a potential car to a customer. As I do that, I really enjoy the connection I have with them individually.
Articles on Honesty and Authenticity Click Here
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
by John J. Smid
Surely our foes are destroyed, and fire devours their wealth. Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.
My wife and I have gone through a huge transition during the last year and a half. When we made the decision together that I should resign from Love in Action-a ministry position that we had both invested our hearts and souls in over the previous 22 years-it was a major change for both of us, and even more so for me.
My Internal Evaluation
In the process of leaving I had to do a lot of internal evaluating; this required a lot of personal honesty and authenticity. I had to dig deep into my heart regarding my motives, my weakness and my strengths. It was imperative that I left with my heart as honest as it could be and to feel clear about my real motives regardless of what the circumstances at the time looked like. It was easy for me to vacillate at a very emotional level. For all intents and purposes it could have looked like I was leaving a conflicting situation in hopes I would find relief and a new beginning but that was not the real truth.
Five years earlier God had truly begun to change my heart. He dug around in there to see if my involvement with the ministry I was in included an idolatrous place in my life. I was certainly deeply invested. I had received much affirmation for what I had been doing all through the years but as I searched my heart I did not believe it was an idol for me in that sense of the word.
Something much bigger was happening and it was quite a move of the Lord. After I began to seek him for changes that I knew could unearth me from 22 years of investment, I found a new excitement, a hope in something that was quite different for me. This was the true beginning of Grace Rivers and I had begun a new journey for myself. I didn’t know what lay ahead but I began to wonder what it might look like. As I pondered these changes in my heart I tried to figure out a way to incorporate these new things where I was serving, but that didn’t seem to gain any momentum.
The Tearing Began
This is where the trials began. Things surrounding my connection with this ministry seemed to be shaking loose. Much of the shaking looked like the man on the roof with the pronged shovel tearing old shingles loose might look from the street. It was rough to go through and at times terrible to experience. But none the less, the ties began to break and I found myself losing my heart connection to the ministry.
After a couple of years of confusion, shock, misunderstandings, and personal and internal battles it became apparent that God was tearing me away literally one finger at a time while I struggled to hold on out of fear that I may not survive outside of where I was. After all, who would be interested in me? I didn’t have a college education and certainly the ministry I was serving was quite narrow in focus and often controversial. So, what would I have to offer another ministry or corporation? How would I make a living?
I also looked back over twenty years earlier. I worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for 13 years. It was a secure job with great pay and benefits. Many I worked with often wondered if they could survive outside of their job since it paid so well and their qualifications might not get them a job like that. So, I wondered the same thing. Where could I go to get this kind of a job. Maybe I have to stay here forever because certainly I couldn’t get this anywhere else. So, I felt trapped by my circumstances.
I realized that I had gotten to the same place in the ministry. Where would I go? Could I survive leaving this ministry position? I once again began to feel trapped by my circumstances thinking surely I couldn’t get this kind of position anywhere else. The deception in my own heart was a stronghold. Thinking I had nothing to offer another ministry or corporation since I was so “under qualified”. After all, I didn’t have a college degree or a resume’ that anyone would find useful outside of this narrow focused ministry I had been in for so long.
After another year of tearing away I got to the place where it appeared that I really had no option if I wanted to remain healthy personally and to leave before everything exploded internally. So, my heart had changed to the point where I began to ask the Lord to free me or I was going to go crazy. I got back to my roots in my faith where I prayed deeply and simply, “God, lead me out of here”.
Ok, I’ll Go Along With You God
Once the decision was made in my heart I did feel relief but at the same time the change had not occurred. In the meantime there was even more turmoil that was more challenging than anything I had gone through before. The last of the fingers had to come off.
When I walked through the decision I began to pray differently. “What do you have for me now God? Make it a surprise!” I didn’t want to contrive my future and truly wanted it to be built by Him. I wanted His best. If I was going to leave this 22 year investment then my future had to be His best. I hadn’t a clue what that might look like. I laugh now thinking that I might be able to contrive it anyway. With my history it wasn’t like I had this wonderful experience that would cause churches, ministries, or corporations to beg me to come to work for them!
Surprises? I want to know more.
God did in fact begin to surprise me. Week after week I saw this process like I was opening Christmas packages one at a time. I knew that whatever was in them would be good but until they were opened I didn’t know the content. One surprise after the other felt like dropping breadcrumbs that were leading me down this mysterious path of discovery. Day by day I released more and more of the past I had lived in, because I saw such wonder in the new challenges that were present and that lay ahead.
John Smid will be selling cars. Talk about surprises! Who would have known 18 months ago that I would be working at a Toyota dealership? I didn’t ask for this. I never would have set my sights on this as an income stream.
As I adjust to the idea I am getting somewhat excited about it. There are many things about this job that fit my interests. The hours will allow some scheduling that coincides with continuing to build Grace Rivers and work on The Journey of Thomas. I look forward to working with some people again since I have been primarily alone in my office all year. I like the managers I have met so far.
Surprising to me, they saw my resume’ as a positive thing. “John, you completely fit the profile that we are looking for. We believe you will do very well with this job.” You mean my history and resume doesn’t disqualify me? You mean it is a positive? Well, there goes another lie I believed. It was cancelled right before my very eyes.
The Journey of Thomas began in my life before I ever even thought of the idea. I had been building the concepts of Honesty and Authenticity on a very personal level. What am I feeling? What is really going on in my heart of hearts? If I had not been more personally honest I might have slammed a few people along the way from the deception if it had set in. During the process of the earthquake in my vocational life, I had to continually evaluate the circumstances and filter them through what I knew was really happening, rather than to blame my circumstances and expect the people around me to be what they were not.
If I had not focused on whom God created me to be I could not have trusted Him as much as I did through the process. As I rocked and rolled through the changes I had to keep coming back to who I was rather than what I had done. What makes up John Smid? What do I really want to do with my life? During this time I found that I had discovered a personal mission statement that really wasn’t new but had led me all through the years. While I was working in a narrowly focused ministry, a much more widely applicable mission was moving in my heart. This personal evaluation of my own authenticity saved me and others from a lot of grief for sure.
Then, the idea of Transparency became a reality. Am I willing to say “Whatever Lord” upon my new life choices? Am I really willing to allow Him to surprise me? Is the element of surprise a positive thing? Actually it has been. Being willing to move wherever He wanted me to, added a wonderful journey to this last couple of years of my life. I learned that when I was flexible in my heart I could then ponder the mysteries of my future.
When my wife and I were on a cruise and had landed in Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean I had just begun to open up my heart to the Lord’s changes. I thought, “What would it be like to come here and start a brand new mission to reach the spiritual needs of this virtually bankrupt island?” My wife wasn’t so keen on the discussion but I was becoming free to begin a brand new life, walking in the freedom of the Lord using me, as I am, however He chooses to. Transparency had a brand new meaning for me and I was finally open to a new adventure.
Yes, I want to learn more each day to live in the truth because that is where I have found some of the answers to the question, “Where are you going Lord, and how do I get there.” It is a great place to be.
My Journey continues…………. Come along with me.
Having a more honest perspective on our life, our motives, and our potential can and will help to prevent relationship struggles and consequences. It will also help in our connection with the Lord. Seeing His perspective allows us to trust Him more fully.
I have often heard some refer to the added “beatitude” Blessed are the Flexible. Actually, “Blessed are the Meek” fits this quite well. Meek in this passage really means in its original language accepting God’s dealings with us as being good.
Being honest can help us to accept God’s dealings with us more fully and with less stress and outward manifestations of sinful responses. Honesty is good “preventive” medicine!
Oh, father, I am so thankful for Your working in my spirit today. As I look back over the last five years I can truly be thankful that You saw a bigger picture than I could have imagined. In Your love and care for me You saw into the future something that I would truly enjoy and embrace even when it wasn’t on my radar screen. Help me to continue following You more deeply into the close and distant future.
PDF My Own Journey – Truth
Saturday, August 8th, 2009
by John J. Smid
Followers of Jesus Christ – Impacting our communities with the gospel!
As I think of the main purpose of The Journey of Thomas, I find myself continually coming back to what started all of this in the beginning. My heart changed a while back and a new burden developed for the lost, the wayward, those who are not connected to healthy fellowship or the Lord at all. I was comfortable in a ministry to Christians seeking God for a better life. I didn’t think so much about those who were lost assuming that was someone else’s burden and that God was taking care of that. When I thought about sharing Jesus with the world I discovered some adverse feelings.
Does sharing the gospel with others scare you?
When you think of talking about your faith do you want to run away?
Are some of your family relationships so tangled up that you can’t imagine talking with them about Jesus?
Is your schedule so full that you can’t take any more time out for those that seem to be lost?
Can you picture yourself building friendships with people who at one time were enemies to your walk with Christ?
Do you think sharing the gospel requires a lot of Scripture memorization and training in a specific program of evangelism?
Have you more often thought the gospel was for those called into evangelism?
I hope that as you read these questions, you already sense an awareness growing in you that the practical applications of the Core Values counteract these concerns. Perhaps you are already seeing how Active Participation, or being Non-judgmental, or practicing Transparency and Respect cause the underlying timidity in these questions to fade away. I hope that what is left is the truth that you have the tools necessary to be competent in personal evangelism. And in that truth, a growing desire to reach out to a lost and dying world.
As I have made further examination of these teachings, I see that growing in my life. Recently I was talking with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of months. As I shared my heart with her I found a passion coming out of my mouth. “We must get out of our church buildings and into the world!” The Journey of Thomas can help make that possible in your life.
In The World?
Several months ago a friend of mine accepted a position as a photographer for an independent movie project here locally. I offered to help him with his equipment. I thought it would be interesting to be involved and I went with a great deal of curiosity. As it turned out, this was a production about urban life in the “hood”. I was very uncomfortable at the beginning because we met in places that were unfamiliar to me and with people that I prejudged to be different from me. I remained quiet and just began to take it all in.
Very quickly I could see that God had something more in store for me. I began to experience kindness, acceptance, and overall friendliness from virtually everyone involved. I was humbled by their overwhelming acceptance.
Within a week God began to work deeply in my heart. I began to lose my preconceived view of these people. I still noticed a difference in color, but not as much of a difference in them. I felt free and open to speak and relate to those I might come in contact with in a new way.
Ironically-but not coincidentally-this was all occurring during the session I wrote for this book on Authenticity. I found that I wasn’t being very authentic with the people I was spending virtually every day with on the movie set. I felt convicted to go to share this with the Director of the film. I needed to be more authentic with him in order to share with him who I really am inside. My own personal journey was about seeing these people like Jesus does and to reveal myself to them. I found that my role there had less to do with the movie and more about the people and relationships. It became a challenging and yet encouraging experience.
I began to see my walk with Christ in a new way. I had been inside a lot of churches, heard many teachings, and shared rich fellowship over the years. Now I was experiencing my true faith walk quite a distance from those church walls. There was something very exciting about being in the “real world” God was revealing to me.
Looking Outside Our Walls
Can we serve Jesus fully if we remain comfortable within our own buildings? Will the Great Commission be fulfilled simply by inviting people to church? If we put more of our effort on how we greet visitors than reaching the lost, we are likely to attract many more “church jumpers” than new believers in Jesus Christ.
Our Journey-the one that you and I are being invited to-is about building relationships with those in the “real world”. Since these relationships will potentially be with people we are not used to being around, we need live a life more honest, authentic, and transparent. We need to become more actively involved in their lives, less judgmental, and protecting their confidentiality. We need to become more sensitive, respectful, and honoring of them as people!
What? You Want Me To Be a Friend of His?
Another part of my own journey began a few years ago. I was confronted with protestors standing on the sidewalk in front of the controversial ministry I was directing. They were picketing our youth program and were stirring a lot of media to action. They were also being antagonistic towards us and to me in particular. One of the protestors was filming the event to produce a documentary with a clear agenda to change what he believed was wrong.
After a few weeks had passed he requested a meeting with me. I reluctantly said yes, and went into the meeting with some hesitancy.
Once the meeting began I found him to be quite different than I expected. He was quite warm and engaged in an honest and transparent dialogue. He was very easy to talk with. I found he was nothing like what I expected him to be. His honesty was disarming and the conversation was actually comfortable. To put it simply, I liked him.
We have had many more meetings over the years.. We have enjoyed getting to know each other and he admitted to me that he found me to be different than he expected as well. We have shared with each other that we actually found a friendship that we appreciated.
Our relationship has taught us both a lesson. Don’t judge a book until you have read it! Yes, we have differences. But in the end, our differences are not the focus of our friendship. I have learned a lot from him. My life is richer from knowing him. He has opened my eyes to see the world very differently. I see Jesus’ calling on my life to see the world as a place where He wants me to be. He has called me to reach out, to be in the world around me while not being of it. And another special outcome from this is that the documentary he intended to be an expose’ on the ministry he was opposed to has changed its purpose. It has now become a documentary about two men from opposite points of view on something who developed a friendship.
I have several new friends now that are different than me and may not have the same spiritual or social convictions that I do, but I like them and learn from them. I hope they like me too.
None of these relationships would have been possible without an intentional application of the lessons taught through the Journey of Thomas. As his journey becomes our journey, we will learn to see others as Jesus sees them.
Springs Of Living Water, As Unto Salvation
The ravaging of the church occurs continually over doctrinal disputes, congregational splits, and denominational fracture. The unfortunate result is the undermining of the Body and distraction from the Great Commission. And yet there are springs of living water as unto salvation coming up from the sidewalks of our cities. The springs are full of life but many Christians are without the tools or experience to know what to do. How can we respond to the needs that are so apparent? I would suggest maybe we should look for people we feel inspired to get to know on a more personal level.
A lady told me recently that her greatest burden was to reach the tattoo crowd. Well, I am not sure what she meant by her description of the people that she wanted to reach, but in her heart was a growing burden.
How will she reach the people she has a burden for? Are they going to come through the doors of a church? Chances are she will have to go to them. She may have to find a new hobby, a new club, or a new place to hang out. She may have to be willing to face ridicule or misunderstanding; it might not be comfortable at first. But I believe that as the grace of God empowers her to go where He sends her, she will find some great new friends, discover God’s purpose on her life, and build an incorruptible treasure in Heaven.
The Great Commission has to be in the streets of our neighborhoods and communities. It might be in a bridge club, or a hobbyist club. It might be at the PTA, or Neighborhood Association. You might find God calling you to play in a secular band, or audition for a community theater. Or, it might just be your next door neighbor that He calls you to serve with sacrifice of time or resources.
This is something I would love to see the Body of Christ move towards! So many organized churches plan a place whether they see it or not, that is a “bless me club” including a well organized sermon, entertaining highly technologically developed music, donuts, coffee, meals and programs for children and teenagers. But, will you find the lost there? Unless we are intentional about our pursuit into the world, we will find ourselves far too comfortable in our surroundings and a lost and dying world will be left untouched.
What would happen if we let ourselves get into the streets of our lives and gathered together for refilling, and to process our experiences? I believe we will find that Christ will lead us into the world if we let Him. As we become faced with our own life experience and that of our peers, we will likely need Christ desperately! Rather than protect ourselves in a church program, we can empower ourselves towards inspirational living. Imagine our churches replacing programs with preparation towards ministry, teaching us what it means to be in the world, but not of the world?
Where is Your Mission Field?
Another friend of mine is a DJ artist. He loves Electronic House Music. He had a gig at a local club and invited several of his friends to come. Wanting to bless my friend by showing my support of his talent and interests, I went. It was at a midtown club that was in my view, an unpleasant environment. The event was smoky, loud, and involved all kinds of people that seemed incompatible with this grandfatherly guy.
When he asked me later what I thought, I had to be honest and tell him that at first I couldn’t understand why he would be in such an ungodly environment. But after I evaluated my own life I thought about the movie production that was also very ungodly and smoky, and unattractive. But God gave me the grace to be there because it was about building relationships and reaching others with what I have experienced myself. I have experienced the love and grace of a forgiving God who cares deeply for my life. It is my desire to share this with others. I wasn’t of the world, but I sure was in it!
My friend has a tremendous burden for the people that come to experience Electronic House Music. They respect him and that is a mission field for him. I am now very supportive of his burden and pray for his outreach to be very successful!
Where is your mission field? Are you feeling a burden for a place where you might be called by God?
God is calling you to share His grace with others
A lady I know had a dad who owned a prominent gay bar in San Francisco. He was Jewish and the men whom he got to know from the gay bar would come into their home. She would ask her dad why he did that, knowing he didn’t agree with the practice of homosexuality. His response was, “Dear, we have our own standards that we live by but we cannot expect the world to know them or live by them. My responsibility is just to love and respect them”. This lady grew up to become a very committed and spirit filled Christian. It was a lesson in her life that drives her to this day.
Is it overwhelming for you to open your eyes to see the real needs right around you? You can close your eyes, but it doesn’t remove the need. It is easier for me to go to “church” and hear the nice music and to receive the friendly Sunday morning hellos and hugs from my friends than it is to go into the streets and expose my heart in a real world.
I believe the Journey of Thomas has the tools and principles that will relieve our fears, motivate our desires, and help us to keep healthy boundaries that will be necessary to reach the lost for Christ. I also believe it will alleviate some of the pitfalls that discourage us from reaching out.
I hope you will join the Journey.
Printable PDF – Our Own Journey
© 2009 John J Smid
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