I just got back from a trip to Florida. People tell me I'm really tan now, although, truth be told, it's just a farmer's tan. No one needs to see me with my shirt off. But I went down there for two reasons: a church planter's conference in Orlando for the first week and then some much needed alone time with Ann over on the east coast. Those were the reasons I went, God had some others reasons for me to be there...as always.
There were 2000 or so church planters at the conference, lots of major speakers. It always jazzes me to be with guys like that who share a common heart for reaching lost people for Jesus. The final speaker was a guy by the name of Francis Chan, pastor of a church in the Simi Valley of California that he planted there and is now enormous...not that that makes him any more or less important than anyone else. But he was talking about how he resigned from his church just that past Sunday, headed for service in the inner city of LA, and that his heart was just to hear from God "I am well pleased with you. Well done." Well, that just resonates with me, because that's what I have always desired from God, t hear him say "I am well pleased with you." And not later when I die, I've wanted to hear that now, mostly because I'm never sure whether he's really pleased with me or not (I'm not sure where that insecurity comes from, but boy is it ever strong.) So when Ann showed up after the conference on Thursday I was telling her about Chan's message and she knows how I've longed to hear that, I was like "you'll never guess what Francis Chan talked about," and she was like, "Wow, pretty relevant to you, huh?" and I was like....well, you get the picture. So he dredged all this stuff up in me again.
Well, we went from there to Sarasota to spend a couple of days with friends down there, and then headed over to the east coast to a condo there right on the inter-coastal waterway, just several miles from the beach...you know how I feel about the beach. So Sunday evening we head over to the beach to walk, it's close to sunset, and all of the parks that you can access the beach from say that they lock their gates at sunset, all except Ambersand Park which has a gate but no sign saying that it closed then. So I pulled in, we walked for a while down the beach, came back just as it was getting dark...and our car was locked in the park. Big chain and padlock on the gate. And we're miles away from where we're staying. Long story short (too late) the people who lived next door pulled up as we were trying to determine what to do and invited us in so we could try to get someone to unlock the gate. While we're talking Ann mentions to Tuck and Cathy that I'm a pastor (she doesn't ant them to think we're casing the joint so we can come back and rob them, but I'm pretty sure some people would rather have thieves than a pastor sitting in their living room!) and he's thrilled, gets his Bible out and asks us about our church. So I'm telling him all about how wonderful you all are and what good thing God has going here and instead of saying any number of things that he could have said (That sounds nice...isn't that cool....you must be lying...) Tuck says this: "Oh, God is pleased with you."
Those very words.
And I looked at Ann and said, "Did you hear what he said?"
A couple of days later I'm reflecting on this encounter and ask Ann what it is about me that makes it so hard to accept that that was from God and not just a coincidence. Why do I have such a hard time believing God loves me or is pleased with me? We go to lunch, and just to put the exclamation point on it all, Tuck and Cathy are at the same restaurant we go to. So I relate all of this story to them and Cathy says "Listen, that's prophetic. Tuck is a prophet, that's from God for you." (She also graciously pays for our lunch, that's the kind of people these two are.)
Well, needless to say I've been chewing on that a lot now. I'm amazed at how God orchestrates these things. I've got more to share about some of the things I heard at the conference, but this was the coolest thing from the time away.