Disengaging the clutch.

I’m now the proud owner of a 1981 Kubota B7100. This 30+ year old tractor came to me after several years’ worth of hope, 6 months of searching, and a rearrangement of money that made just the right deal possible at just the right moment. I still beam and almost clap my hands when I think about the way it all worked out, the deals I turned down because they weren’t “right,” and the way this one did work out.

You could say, though, that this deal didn’t work out “perfect.” The tractor came to me with a problem with the clutch. I went ahead and bought the tractor with the problem after negotiating the price down by the amount we expected the repairs to cost. Fair enough. It’s a 30 year old tractor, with a loader, with a mower, with 4 wheel drive, and even with a pretty good paint job and very little rust… you’re going to have to do SOMETHING to the thing. Thing is, 1 day after getting the tractor back, the problem started all over again. What they’d fixed was not the problem… or something else was causing to re-occur. So here my tractor has sat for over a month, waiting on a local guy to come fix it, but he’s of course busy with the REAL farmers right now. So I wait. And wait. And wait.

But then I stopped waiting. And asked a mechanic friend if he thought WE could do it. And he did. What scared me the most about doing it myself was that “myself” part. And now that’s not there. Now it’s “we.” But that’s a side story. What I’m writing about today is the clutch. Disengaging the clutch.

My first car was a manual transmission, so I learned to operate a clutch early in life – over 20 years ago, I guess. The thing is, I never knew how one worked until now. You push the pedal, gears release, you move to another gear, and put everything back under a load. Easy enough. Yeah, there are parts that wear out from friction or overuse, but what actually goes on inside, I never knew until recent exploration on my own and explanations of a good friend.

You see, to DISENGAGE a clutch, you actually apply PRESSURE to the pedal. You push, and something pulls away. Now that I’ve seen the internal components (and will soon see them actually all connected up when we work on the tractor), I see how it works. You push the pedal, it pushes it’s way through some linkages to this bearing (I’m still learning what a bearing is), and it in turn pushes against this plate, which by some force of nature causes springs to pull the friction plate of the clutch away from the flywheel, setting your shaft and gears free of the load. It’s actually quite simple.

So what’s that mean for me?

I have a hard time disengaging. I go at full speed for hours, days, and months, and then when I try to shift gears, it’s like I don’t have a clutch. I either can’t get into the lower gear to enjoy life for a bit, or I grind life to pieces in the process. I forget to find, and to use, that “something” that will act as a clutch in life, giving me time to release, to be in neutral, and THEN to shift into a new gear and slowly reapply the pressure of what drives life.

[As I write this, I know it’s not all neat and complete. This is a bit rambling. But it’s putting into words what I’m walking in life, which feels much the same.]

On a side note, my tractor doesn’t have synchronizers (I think that’s what you call it). In a car (where you have these), you can shift from one gear to another with the clutch disengaged and not stop your motion. Not so in a tractor. You’re supposed to come to a stop, shift gears, and THEN start back up again. This allows the gears to line up properly without having to do so on the fly.

Again… such is life. Sometimes you can’t shift from HI to LOW while moving at MEDIUM. Sometimes you have to come to STOP – to NEUTRAL – before you can reengage.

Hmm… good stuff here. Glad I woke up early to write and listen to the rain fall. I’m glad I get to take Monday off to work with a friend and split my tractor in two to work on something I’m not familiar with. I’m glad.

I’m also thinking it may be about time to disengage for more than a day. Maybe when the kids go to Pennsylvania to be with their grandparents we’ll do something special. GO somewhere we can’t work. Go somewhere where nature speaks, where the stars pour out wisdom.

I like that idea.

 

 

My Friend Dillon

I’m listening to a live webinar by Dare 2 Share at the moment about discipling youth and can’t stop thinking about my friend Dillon. I’m not always paying attention, but I know he has a running tally of how many friends he’s reaching out to Jesus with. The speaker, Greg Stier, made the assertion that evangelism is critical to discipling teens:

 

“When we’re willing to offer what’s most valuable to us, our faith is matured by what we’re willing to sacrifice.”

 

What’s the most important thing to a teen? To soon to be college freshman? To a man?

 

In short, and in most cases, it’s simply what their friends think of them. Boil it all down, and that will be left. It MATTERS. When a teen begins to share Christ with their friends, they know that they’re risking that friendship. They know that they’re putting their friendship on the altar… and that there is no real discipleship unless there is real risk.

 

Jesus said, “If you want to save your life, you’ll lose it.” Do we love jesus this much? Do I?

 

Some of the teens I know do. They may be crazy and lazy and a little rude and know-it-all, but I have nothing but respect for those that are willing to lay friendships on the line, share their faith as best they can, and come back and try again, again, and again.

 

To Dillon’s parents… you have raised a quality young man. I know you see a side of him that I’ll never have to deal with, but I’m proud to have him as a friend, brother, and comrade.

"God, I just want what you want." Reeeeeally?

“Your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.”

How often have we heard that line of the Lord’s Prayer and said, “Yes, God! YOUR will be done. Not mine.” And yet 10 minutes later we’re griping because we’re stuck in traffic because some old lady 10 cars up had the nerve to run over a nail and have a flat tire; and it doesn’t even look like she knows where her spare is! Or perhaps it’s more like a deadline we know is coming up, or a project we know needs to be completed, and even though we’ve had a month or more to really plan, set, and achieve the steps necessary to create an excellent end result, we somehow come to the hands, throw up our hands to God, and say “Your will be done! It’s out of my hands; I did my best.” Reeeeealy?

I was listening to end of the Sunday podcast of the Daily Audio Bible this morning and Brian’s words caught me. Here’s some of what he said (you can read more here):

We find ourselves in some sort of trial or hardship. We then go to the Lord in an attitude of humility, hat in hands. We come before the Lord and we’re sincere about it. “God, I just want what you want.” That hadn’t been true up to this point, but we’re rocked to the point that we realize God is our hope. We need to align our wills with his, so “whatever you want, God, is what I want. Where you’re going, Lord, is where I want to go. Speak to me. Give me a clear direction and, no matter what that is, that is what I will do. That is what I want to do, is to be obedient.” So then we hear from the Lord and it’s not what we want to hear, which immediately reveals the motives of our heart. We just want God to bail us out, to put things back to how they were when they were going well. We don’t want God’s will. We want our will with God’s blessing upon it. 

We don’t want God’s will.
We want our will with God’s blessing upon it. 

How true is that? And how many times has that been me. You could probably ask any of the people that REALLY know me, and they could rattle off a few. Or you could ask me, and I could rattle off a hundred. Times in life where I haven’t truly want’s God’s WILL. I’ve wanted God to fork over a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, to bail me out, to set me on a new path, or simply to “re-assure” me that I’m on the right path where I am.

It takes tremendous patience and humility to admit that God’s will may be being done in my life, even if I’m in a season where I can’t understand it at all. I was speaking with a very close friend just yesterday who, from the outside, could easily be thought of in a very stagnant part of life. In between “real jobs.” Friends around him have truly great things happening, some of which have even thrown my friend into even less work as he’s allowed God to take them out of his life, in a way… and yet as I’m talking to him, I sense complete honesty when he says, “I’m OK with that. If God has set me aside in this season to pray for others and connect them with each other, that’s great.” He goes on to say that of course he’d love to get “in the fray,” so to speak, but he’s come to a point in his life where he can no longer raise his fist at God and say, in essense, “I know better!”

I’m in a stage of my life right now where a lot seems to be changing. I’ve hunted all year for “something big” and haven’t found it. I’m still doing much of the same type of thing I was a year and a half ago, which is not entirely what I’d say I want to be doing 5 years from now. The only difference is I’m doing more of it to make ends meet. I’ve pursued leads, considered strategies, and even put together a decent business plan to get there. But it kept feeling “off.” Like it was more of my version of what I thought God would want to do than His version matched with my unique person.

Recently some things have started to come together in some directions that I’m simply amazed by. A month ago I had an idea and started building on it for a concept I thought would allow me to encourage, equip, and empower teens all over the country through little groups they’re part of. Last week I had coffee with a man who sandblasted the idea with a word of wisdom I hadn’t even thought of that could have seemingly squashed the whole thing. Instead, though, we talked it through, and 2 hours later that obstacle had become a tremendous opportunity. It took me right out of the equation. Instead of “Chet” being “the guy” who sends out all these little “love drops” (Thanks for that word, Rob), it’s now parents, grandparents, and those who should be adding life to their children. Instead of looking to build some sort of income from cash strapped ministries, we’re looking toward families with some cash to spare. I was humbled, excited, scared, and thrilled, all at once.

That feeling remains. We’re now moving into plans to build marketing and sales strategies, and up comes this idea that we’ll need a 3-5 minute promo video to play in churches and before parents to share the concept. Video!? Wow. Um…. I hadn’t even thought of that, but it makes perfect sense, and since I’ve bitten the bullet and re-engaged my little network of people these past few weeks, I know exactly who to call on to help me with that. 

It’s amazing what happens when we switch from “my will with God’s blessing” to simply “God’s will.” I wouldn’t say that everything falls into place, because it certainly does not. Before ANYTHING can fall into place, it probably all needs to FALL DOWN. Depending on the height of the wall I’ve built and upon what foundation it was built, it may need to be torn down to the ground (or further). But Jesus will do that. He is faithful and true, and our God will come through…. always.

I’m no expert on this subject, and I think those who are “experts” are either full of crap or have walked the long, hard path of surrender and finally seen that to truly experience God’s blessing in our lives, we must lay it all down. Every. Little. Bit. I hope to continue to seek out and learn from these men, women, and even children. They are out there, and they are worth following. Perhaps, someday, God will use me in that way. Perhaps he already is. All glory to him, forever.

Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.

(If you’d like to read more of Brian Hardin’s thoughts on this topic, check out the transcript of 10/23’s Daily Audio Bible here, or listen to it here.)

 

Kristian Stanfill – Always

My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Troubles surround me, chaos abounding
My soul will rest in You
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord (4x)
From You Lord, from You Lord

 

Social Development – Where I Stand Now

Much has changed in my social life over the past four years. Through some events and crises in my life at that part of my life, I was confronted with a side of myself I’d never really wanted to know – immaturity that showed up through self-imposed isolation, avoidance of confrontation, and even dishonesty through lack of true communication and openness. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like now if that year had not occurred, and while it was not centered around social relationships, they were impacted tremendously.

Throughout most of my life, my closest relationships have consistently been within the realm of my local church. While this is still true in many cases, the fact that I see these people on Sundays no longer defines the breadth of the relationship. Most of my close friends, be they from church, a shared ministry, or a common interest/activity, are close because they are actually my friends, and not just because I see them on a routine basis. I now find myself frequently making lunch appointments with no particular agenda, not even to “catch up.” I now have friends who just like to be with me, and I with them.

As I went through the social development evaluation, a few things did become apparent to me. I think  I’m generally a decent person to be around, but there are still situations and times where I “shut down,” or “crawl into my shell.” As I looked at the times these occur, they seem to be in places where I am not 100% comfortable with my opinion or what I have to say. I seem to be completely fine as an uninformed person in the conversation where I’m learning or questioning, and also fine when I AM informed, have an informed opinion that I can support to offer, and so on. Where I’m not comfortable, however, is when ideas are bouncing around, and I simply don’t fully know where I stand, or I can’t keep up fast enough to fully have a developed and explainable thought. I don’t seem to be comfortable with my spontaneous self.

I’ve found this part of my life is already being worked on in several areas. One of the simplest is a kind of strange one, but it has worked for me. I’ve come to phrase this to myself as “not being comfortable in my own skin.” I seem to take myself to seriously, to think I have to have a conversation under control to participate in it. I’ve since taken up making funny faces, or at least smiling, to get a reaction out of certain of my friends, or just to respond to their own smile or funny face. I want to laugh more. I want to hug more. I want to simply be comfortable with who I am, where I am, right here and now.

The primary weaknesses I noted were in areas where I’m unfamiliar, yet there is an unspoken expectation (to me at least) to have something to say. Things like a networking group, or a small group discussing politics, or even teaching a subject where the subject matter to be discussed doesn’t totally match up with my own beliefs or thought process. I also see difficulty in transitioning / guiding conversations to a substantial topic that needs to be discussed or kept on topic but just won’t come up or stay focused.

I do find that through the past several years, I have developed strengths in reaching out to my friends. Whether it’s through things such as inviting them to / buying lunch, thinking and purchasing a book for them, sharing my own undeveloped thoughts before they’re fully figured out… so much has changed in this area that I haven’t taken much time to look back on it over the past several years.

I’ve come to believe in specific delegating; of empowering people by both letting them come up with ideas and then be the catalyst to turn those ideas into actions. I’ve been told I am an encouraging writer of notes, and that my teaching / discussion leading skills are both down to earth, practical, and try to focus on a key concept or two.  I also believe and enjoy helping others crystallize their own thoughts, perhaps offering suggestions here and there, but not doing their thinking for them, even if they don’t “get it” right away (or ever). I enjoy positions of leadership where I can facilitate conversation and discussion, but not necessarily drive it.

As previously mentioned, my escape from social situations I don’t want to be in is to shut down, to isolate myself. I may not necessarily appear unfriendly, but at the same time, I stop seeking out conversation, and I move into short-worded answers that don’t toss the conversation back to the other person/people.

One specific instance in which I’ve seen my social skills improve as I would like them to is in my church softball league. Over the years, I’ve gone from simply playing my best and doing what I’m told to tryin to encourage my other teammates, shouting what’s going on or needs to be done, and even making a few bad base-coaching decisions resulting in outs or my own being yelled at, but I keep going now. I’ve chewed out members of my own team for discouraging remarks they’ve made, and also talked to them in a more controlled setting to try and help them not only see where they’re tearing the team down, but also ways and opportunities they have to put that influence to good work instead of bad. There is still work do be done in following up in some of these areas, but I feel I am becoming more consistent in my ability to say what I think without constantly pre-evaluating my thoughts as to how it might come back and hurt my feelings.

Let This Change You

I’m putting together a little guide for our church youth group tomorrow night. Neither myself nor my other Wednesday night cohort in crime, Dewey, can be there, so one of the college-age guys is going to lead the group. I thought I’d jot down the flow here, since I can easily link directly to the videos and write out the discussion questions as well.

 

GETTING STARTED

Today we’re going to watch a couple video clips from a movie called To Save a Life. This movie is the story of a young man named Jake Taylor. He’s the school champion of basketball and beer pong, has a beautiful girlfriend, and everybody loves him. Life couldn’t get better, right? An old friend from Jake’s childhood comes back into his life, and shortly thereafter, commits suicide. Jake begins to think. “What did i miss? What could I have done different? It’s all my fault!” A youth minister meets Jake, and leads him to Jesus. Things don’t magically turn nice and neat, however, and Jake begins to really wrestle with the realities of life, judgement, and character.

VIDEO CLIP – TRAILER (full screen button in bottom right)

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DISCUSSION

Just what does the “Good Life” look like in your world?

What do we suppose the Christian Life is “supposed” to look like?

When you’ve shared your faith with a friend, or when you’ve looked for promises in the Bible, what is it you hope to find?

I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Christian life is better than the Good Life… but how? Why? Are those things just words?

If we really want to go deep into being the people God has made us to be, we have to quit wading in the shallow waters of easy answers, convenient friendships, and false hope.

In this next video clip, Jake ventures into a youth meeting at the church shortly after everyone was playing a game of drinking pop through a sock. Even though he’s living a life of newly found faith in Jesus, the problems of his world did not go away, and the shallow attitudes of the other people in the room becomes quickly obvious to him.

VIDEO CLIP – LET THIS CHANGE YOU (full screen button in bottom right)

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DISCUSSION

What reasons did people give to why they didn’t want to be in church?

Are those valid reasons? Not just in our church, but anywhere?

Jake said: “What’s the point of all this if you’re not going to let this change you?”

How would you answer that? Big or small… how are you going to let this change you?

Just a couple weeks ago, for example… Drew was up on the stage as the youth shared about their trip to Nashville, and he talked about the way he wanted to go out of his way to start seeking out friendships with some of the students at school who needed extra help. I loved how he said it, how often we say we’re trying to “protect them from getting hurt” but in reality, how much of it really is a convenience thing that we just don’t have to “deal with them?”

How much would you risk? How much would you give up… To Save a Life?

There are people all around us, in our schools, on our block, or even in this very room on any given Sunday, who are lost, lonely, and without hope. Do we expect them to get up off their butts and come to us for help, or do we take the help to them?

This last video is the music video from Casting Crown’s song, Does Anybody See Her. I’d encourage you to make that decision, individually, and together. Just how far will you go… to save a life?

CASTING CROWNS – DOES ANYBODY HEAR HER? (full screen button in bottom right)

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SONG LYRICS

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyon’s ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She’s another two years older
And she’s three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day

And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her

Never even met her
(Never Even Met her)

(OHHHHH)Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me

Does anybody hear her? (Does anybody hear her?) Does anybody see? (Does anybody See?)
Does anybody even know she’s going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple (shadow of her steeple)
With all the lost and lonely people (Lost and Lonely people)
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?

He is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

Hugs from God

I have a little thing with hugs. With physical contact period. I long for it, yet am uncomfortable around it.

Friday, after a very wearing day, I finally had a few minutes alone before bed. I sat down on the kitchen floor, put my head in my hands, and finally just relaxed and let it all out for a couple minutes. I remember saying something like, “I would just love to be hugged, God. Freely, just given a real hug.”

Sunday morning after church it started. A pair of boys from the youth group, Ethan literally RAN up to me and have me a huge hug. Right after that, another. Later on, a full fledged hug from Tabi.

On monday, two girls came out to ride horses. Again, the hugs came as a pair, Tabi and Stevi. I was starting to get the message. These were direct from God, and just what I needed.

Then today, after lunch with a group of friends, 3 more. 2 from kids I may not see again for awhile but are now emblazoned on my heart, Stephen and Amber. And another from Tabi. And I felt finally free of something, to really hug back.

Loved it.

As I told Erin the whole story, starting with the prayer, tonite it made me tear up a little more. God gave me EXACTLY what I asked for, in a way far more personal and meaningful than I’d thought possible. Especially with how they seemed to come in pairs.

So to all of you, ET, Tabi, Stevi, Amber, Stephen and one more who I’ve gone blank on… Thank you from the depths of my heart and soul. God was hugging me, through you. You mean so much to me, and I love you.

A weekend full of rocks – Part 1

This past weekend was full of events, stories, fun, and lessons. I need to get some of them down.

Saturday morning started with a family shopping trip to Menards for material for a new chicken tractor. If you don’t know what those are, you haven’t been to my house and looked out the back window. We have these portable pens for our chickens, one made of 2×2’s (good idea), and one made of 1″ PVC (not so great idea). Each day we move them around our pastures, giving the chickens access to fresh grass, while at the same time fertilizing, mowing, and clearing bugs and weeds out of the way. So the PVC tractor’s life has come to an end… wood is easy to repair, glued PVC, not so much.

On the way home, Erin, Colton, and I took the “messy road,” as my son likes to call it. It’s the state road that’s technically closed right now, but is still mostly paved, and on Saturday, there was no construction traffic, and we were in the truck… ADVENTURE awaits! So we took that road to the Orchard County Store‘s fall festival. A straw tunnel, corn maze, and miniature pumpkin decorating made for a great time.

From there we went on home, waited for Adam to show up, and started our “work day,” which equated to taking nine years of scrap metal, wood, and junk and separating it into an organized mess. The highlight had to be the old reel mower that weight 500-600 pounds that Adam and I more or less flipped, end over end, until we got it to the new “fenced in” scrap pile, and then rolled it up a hill. Such hard labor had not been done in a while. In the end, it finished as all good work days do, with a fire, full of toxic smoke in pretty colors that rivaled a rainbow.

Fast forward to Saturday night, around 10PM. Colton’s in bed, we’re getting ready to head to bed early, when suddenly, the evening goes down the tube. One of our lovely dogs (Ruby), has stolen a round bone from the other dog (Otis) and has been chewing on it. Normal behavior, no big deal. But now she’s done it. She’s got it stuck on her lower jaw. Half of it’s in her mouth, behind her canines, while the other half is stuck under her chin. What to do now… Of course, Chet has the answer… if we can’t pull it off, we’ll hacksaw it off! What a novel idea! I’m sure the dog won’t mind. After about 45 minutes of trying, I give up. After a “pleasant” discource with Erin, we decide that even though we’re both frustrated with the situation, and with each other, the real creature with frustrations is the one standing on 4 legs, waiting for us to do something productive with this mass of bone stuck in her mouth.

So I head into the 24 hour animal hospital, which is about a half hour drive away. After about 15 minutes, and $200, I’m back on my way home. Fun night, but all ended well… except the bank account and my good night’s sleep, I suppose.

So, that’s the first day of the weekend, and part one of my recount of it, as I pile up rocks to monumentalize the wonderful family God has graced me with, as well as friends, experiences, and a life I wouldn’t trade for anything. Stay tuned for Sunday, and more chronicles of Adam, Tabi, Katie, Paige, Colton, and me and my wife… along with probably a few other minor characters.