While I’m away in Guatemala, several people have stepped up to share their stretching stories with The Stretched Community. Today, I have the honor and privilege of presenting Tom Tarver. Tom blogs regularly at A Curious Band of Brothers, and he is a regular commenter here on the Stretched blog. Please check out Tom’s post and leave an answer to his question. Afterwards, go check out his blog. His contact information along with a short bio can be found at the end of the post. Thanks!
When God Provides, You May Be Stretched
I planned to be somewhere else other than Alaska this summer.
But God had other plans.
And His plans would stretch me for two weeks … to a point … of breaking.
My original plan. This summer I wanted to pedal from sea to shining sea. I had declined to join our church’s short-term mission team in July because of my cycling plans. Reggie, the organizer and team leader, knew this.
My plan failed to come to fruition. But Reggie didn’t know that.
God intervenes. On a Sunday morning two weeks before the team would leave for Two Rivers, Alaska, Reggie and I spoke for the first time in months about the trip, and for the first time he learned about my summer plan’s failure to launch.
Too bad we hadn’t spoken earlier. The team now overflowed with talented folks. They had no room for one more.
But God had plans for me, and through an unexpected illness, a spot opened up hours after our conversation. I hadn’t been on Reggie’s radar but I quickly moved to the top of his to-call list.
When Reggie phoned, he said, “Everything’s already paid for except you’ll need a ticket.”
“Sorry, Reggie. On such short notice, I can’t come up with that kind of money.”
“But God has resources.”
I humored him and allowed that, yes, God did have resources. I said, “I’ll pray about it, make some calls, and let you know tomorrow.”
Two calls the next morning netted the entire amount. In less than 24 hours I knew God wanted me on that team. I knew it!
What I didn’t know was why.
When I arrived in Alaska and settled into the rustic camp setting our team would call home, I knew I belonged there.
When I shivered through the first night, I knew I belonged there.
When I slapped the thousandth mosquito, I knew I belonged there.
When I pounded the concrete wall to break it apart, I knew I belonged there.
When I trotted to the outhouse for the third time during the night, I knew I belonged there.
But I still didn’t know why.
While others quickly found their parts in the project, I wandered around asking, “Do you need help?”
“Not now. Maybe later.”
For ten of the dozen days we were in Alaska, I said to a friend, “I don’t know why I’m here.”
Our last two days on the project, God began to grant me understanding, insight that surprised and troubled me.
Here’s what I learned, lessons that continue to stretch me.
I’m afraid of failure. With other people, I’ve shared over and over again the importance of embracing failure. Failure in attempting something great teaches some awesome lessons. To launch out, attempt a great thing, and fall short is better than remaining safe at home.
And I thought I did plenty of launching out.
But, as I spent time working with others, I discovered I shied away from making decisions. I let others handle the power drill or cut the boards. I didn’t want to make mistakes.
And I didn’t want others to discover how poor I was at building things. I could tear down stuff. I could clear up the debris. But after the destruction, I didn’t know how to construct.
Even on our fun day, I discovered my heart quaked at doing something new in front of an audience.
At the end of an Alaskan gold mine tour, we all ended up panning for gold. I needed help but wouldn’t ask for it. In the end, I was one of two people still panning because I worked so slow for fear of making a mistake. And this was supposed to be fun.
I crave action and grow impatient with planning. At the church where the team did a lot of renovating, I wandered around looking for the action. Because of impatience, I missed the opportunity to listen and plan with those who did know what they were doing. I moved on to the next place before I could understand the present project and before I could be available to help when needed.
So why was I in Alaska?
So God could stretch me, break me, and help me make needed changes in my life.
Question: What lessons has God taught you through His leading and provision?
About the Author
Tom’s a blogger and so much more. For an example of something other than his blog, follow this link. He’s written one novel with more in the works. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest as well as a 2011 semi-finalist (speculative fiction) in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. His novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.
March has come and gone.
As usual, I like to look back to see what happened on The Stretched Blog this month.
It was a pretty good month. Overall traffic, was just under last month’s traffic. And the comments were the highest so far. Here’s a review of the top 10 posts from this month:
1. Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know (March 7, 2012) * Re-Post
2. End Of An Era – An End To Suburban Chicken Farming (March 14, 2012)
3. Help Me Write My First Book (March 8, 2012)
4. Leap of Faith Continued (The Decision) (March 22, 2012 – highest traffic day this month)
5. Leap of Faith (March 21, 2012)
6. Migraine Madness (March 13, 2012)
7. Book Review: How Do You Kill 11 Million People? (March 5, 2012)
8. Ice Breaker – Songs On Your Playlist (March 23, 2012)
9. Continue To Learn (March 20, 2012)
10. Back To The Basics – Guest Post From Joe Lalonde (March 6, 2012)
And the top 3 commenters for this month:
1. Tom Neal (30)
2. Joe Lalonde (24)
3. Larry Carter (20)
One of the things that excited me most about the comments this month was the huge number of new commenters. Your comments make The Stretched Community so great! Please keep commenting.
So how was your month? What was your most popular post? What was your favorite post on your blog or here?
I blinked and February was gone. Thankfully, I captured some of my thoughts and experiences here. As always, I wanted to thank all of you for your daily readership and contribution to The Stretched Blog. The new platform (jonstolpe.com) is growing! I like to take the opportunity with the first post of the month to look back and to celebrate what’s been happening here. So here are the top ten posts from February 2012:
3. Say What You Need To Say (Jan. 2012)
10. Quality – Time
Here are the top three commenters:
1. Tom Tarver (35)
2. Joe Lalonde (29)
3. Larry Carter (21)
Overall traffic increased on the blog despite the fact that I cut down my average posts per week from six to five. This is a good sign that new readers are joining the community and conversation. We had several brand new commenters and one or two new subscribers. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the blog (on the right hand side of the main page), adding the blog to your RSS reader, and becoming of the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook fan page. These are all great ways to make sure you stay connected with what’s going on in and around the Stretched Community.
Finally, I’d like to highlight a few blogs that I’ve recently been enjoying. Stop on over to these great blogs and see what’s happening:
How was your month? What was your top post? What was your favorite post here? What other blogs can you share with The Stretched Community?
|Stretching To A New Focus – Guest Post by Leah Adams
Today, A Curious Band Of Others visits The Stretched Blog. I’m honored to present guest blogger Tom Tarver. Tom writes about the daily struggles to hear and to do—the building on the rock foundation process—to those who dream bigger dreams about being the church, the body of Christ in motion. After you read his post below, swing over to his blog and check things out. Add A Curious Band Of Others to your regular reading.
(If you have a STRETCHED story to share, drop me a comment so we can connect.)
My young friend Richard looked like he’d finished an Ironman Triathlon—face buried in his arms, legs like jelly. There would be no more basketball for him today.
“The first day is always the hardest,” I said. “You’ll feel better after a few days.” I hoped he’d show up again but had my doubts.
Between gasps, he said, “I haven’t played basketball in three years.”
I headed back out to the court for the next game and figured I’d had my last conversation with Richard for the day, perhaps even for the week. Shoot, maybe even the year.
I was wrong on all accounts. Richard trotted out for the morning’s last game. In the final moments, he lunged to save an escaping basketball and tipped it in my direction. I turned and swooshed the game winner.
Richard surpassed all my expectations because I underestimated him in a big way. I shouldn’t by now; because he made a number of exceptional plays on the football team I coached and hustled his heart out on our softball team.
He doesn’t look the part of an athlete—he’s whippet thin but tortoise slow. When players ran routes in full pads, I could distinguish Richard from the other skinny receivers by his foot speed. Forget a stopwatch. You need to clock Richard with a calendar.
But here’s the thing about Richard. He sticks to it (whatever it is—football, softball, basketball, etc.). And I admire him for his resolve. He just doesn’t quit. I’ve seen better, more talented athletes who would be exceptional if they had Richard’s heart.
Richard’s friendship serves to remind me of the prophet Samuel’s visit to Jesse’s home. He came looking to anoint a king and based his initial judgment on appearances. God had another standard.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Jesus also spoke about appearances. In John 5, we read about Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. In John 7, He’s confronted by the Jewish religious leaders. He knows they want to kill Him, have wanted to ever since the Sabbath-day healing, and will kill Him in due time. In that context, Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24 NIV).
So here are a few takeaway thoughts that stretch me.
1) Value people. Jesus valued people above rules and regulations. He knew the Law was important. In truth, the Law flowed out of God’s character. But why? Because God loves and values people.
2) Go deeper. You know the saying. “Beauty is only skin deep.” I can see skin deep with my physical eyes, but I can’t see any further than that. Everything I take in visually—what he wears, how she fixes her hair, his height, her complexion, etc.—is mere appearance. Hollywood has built a successful industry primarily on eye appeal. But for us, living in obedience to the Lord, we must go deeper than the skin.
3) Gaze upon the heart. How many times have you assigned a motive to another person because he angered you? How many times have you stopped a conversation with “That’s stupid” or something worse? Whether I’ve said it or not, I’ve certainly thought it. To get to the heart of a person or a matter, I have to slow down and think. For me, that means gaze instead of glimpse.
What’s true for me in relation to Richard remains true for me in my relationship with God. I must go deeper than my circumstances, whether good or bad, to know God’s heart. I must gaze upon Him in Scripture, in worship, and in life to understand the depth of His love for me. Even then, I may only get a glimpse of His glory. But, with God, a glimpse is more than I deserve and more than enough.
Questions: What kind of person does God use to stretch you?