As I write this morning, I am in a state of deep gratitude over what God has been doing inside of me these past few weeks, and it comes out of an experience of being taken to the woodshed by God (and a faithful friend) over something near and dear to my heart. Painting. "Painting?" you say. Yep. Painting!
"I Was a Broken-Down Pastor."
I have begun to notice through the years that when God is about to do something in my life, I'm painting. Eighteen years ago, I was a broken-down pastor sitting on the sidelines after getting kicked out of a church I started. Shortly after that, mom and dad called me and mentioned that they were going to Costa Rica on a mission trip and wondered if I would like to go with them. "Sure!" I said. "But I don't have the money at the moment to go."
"We thought you might say that," Dad answered. "So what if you paint our house, and then we will pay for your trip?"
"Sounds good to me," I said. And I painted their house, went to Costa Rica, and met this crazy Guatemalan named Cesar Gonzalez. Cesar invited me to Guatemala to drive around the country with him and dream of ministries for people who don't like to go to church. Eighteen years later, we have friends in more than 75 different places in three countries starting groups and doing ministry. I didn't know what life after that paint job would entail, but for me, it started something that has become a pattern. I'm seeing that painting and I have this thing going on!
"Does God Want Me to Be a Painter or a Missionary?"
When I started going to Guatemala more often, I needed more traveling money. So whenever I needed a little extra cash, and I didn't want to bother anyone else to ask for it, I would paint something and go. When Bill Burrows and I started teaming up, he also painted, so when we haven't been raising funds with Royals Bobbleheads or selling tickets, we have painted something for the funds and kept going as well.
But this summer, I think it got out of hand, and I know the person to blame. It's my dad! Again! Some time in the spring, Dad mentioned that his house needed to be painted, and he wondered if Bill and I might want to paint it to earn extra money for our ministry. After consulting with Bill, we agreed. Before we started the job, Dad mentioned in passing to Mike, his neighbor, that we were painting his house. "Can they bid mine?" Mike asked. "I'm needing my house painted too."
Fast forward several months later, and since agreeing to paint Dad's house and Mike's house, we have now painted on 4 other houses. On every job we have done, people have noticed us working and then asked us to bid their house. In front of Mike's house one day, a man walking his dog stopped to ask me, "Can you bid my house?"
"We're not professional painters," I answered, "we are doing this to raise mission money for work we are doing in Guatemala."
"Really?" he answered. "You're exactly the kind of painters I want." Then looking at Mike's gingerbread construction of his house and all the intricate trim we had painted, he said, "And I can tell that you guys are doing a good job."
A month or so later, when I was painting on my son Ryan's house as a baby gift to him and his wife Bobbi before the birth of our newest grand-daughter Bridgett, Frank, a neighbor of his from across the street, came over and asked if I would bid his house. I gave him the same line of not being a professional painter and that I do mission work in Guatemala. He laughed. "That's why God told me to talk with you!" Frank went on to say that a few minutes before that God had prompted him to walk across the street and talk to that man painting that house. In minutes it was like we were long lost friends, and a couple weeks later, Bill and I painted Frank's house, and Frank is now becoming a part of our ministry.
All this painting has been fine and good, but about two weeks ago, I realized that in painting so much, I had neglected several important ministry goals for the summer and was getting haphazard in communicating with ministry friends. But every week it seemed I was getting another call from someone wanting a paint job. I knew I needed to quit painting, but these were good leads! Should we start a painting business on the side and just be contractors of paint jobs? I started to daydream of names for the business. "Painters on Mission" ... "helping you love your house and make a difference in the world"...
One day in talking to Bill about this, he snapped at me. "Dude! We are not painters! We have tons of Play. Story. Eat. work to be done. We have got to quit painting and get focused on what we are called to do."
"You're right," I ceded. "What am I thinking?"
Reconciliation, "What a Beautiful Thing!"
As I pondered all this, John, a professional painter friend came to mind. Nearly 20 years ago, John had helped me finish painting my house when I was in a busy season of starting the church that John attended. I hadn't seen him since we left that church under less than ideal circumstances. In fact, it was shortly before that first paint job of Dad's when I would have last seen John. I had heard that he and his wife had stayed and continued to be faithful members.
"Find John, and call him." I heard whispered in my mind.
"Okay Lord!" I said out loud to the ceiling. Jumping on my computer, I looked up John's wife Debbie on Facebook and sent her a message about needing to call John. Within minutes, I had his number.
"Is this John Gutierrez?" I asked expectantly over the phone.
"Yes," he answered tentatively.
"This is Steve Reed. I don't know if you remember me, but we did church together a long time ago."
"Sure! Steve Reed, how are you doing?"
"I've got a painting problem, and I'm wondering if you are still in the business and if you can help me out?"
"Absolutely!" John chirped enthusiastically.
Within minutes, it seemed that John and I had picked up where we left off. In our conversation I discovered that John has been in a holding pattern trying to figure out what God wanted him to do. It just so happens that he has been wondering how he could make his business more intentional for ministry. When I outlined some of my crazy "Painters on Mission" thoughts, John slapped the table.
"Steve, this is exactly what I want to do! I've been needing someone to help me figure it out, and here you are! This is incredible."
More incredible for me came a couple days later when in a moment at the end of our first face-to-face meeting, I felt prompted to say one more thing. "John, before we go today, I need to ask for your forgiveness for my role in the whole church fiasco."
"Steve, no apology is necessary. You didn't do anything wrong, and God has done amazing things since."
"No, John," I interrupted. "I don't believe I was as Christ-like as I should have been, and I don't believe that I didn't do anything wrong. However," I continued, "I am more convinced than ever that God works all things out for our good, and He has certainly done that for me. All the ministry things that have happened in our mission work have come out of that crazy time, and for that I am grateful. But I still believe that I was not all that God wanted me to be."
"Okay," John said. "I appreciate that. I'm just thrilled that we have reconnected."
As I enter into my new recovery program for painters anonymous, I am grateful that God has brought me full circle again to a friend who I need now more than ever, and I am grateful for solid friends like Bill to remind me that we have much work to be done that requires me to do a lot less painting and a lot more communicating with you and other friends about the growing financial and ministry needs before us.
Will you join me in fervent prayer and faith to follow through on what God is laying before us? I can't help but believe that God is up to something good, and He is inviting us to join Him. Let's stay tuned in to Him and be ready for our next assignment!
10:02 PRAYER (LUKE 10:2)
Thank God for how He can bring us together in unity--even in spite of long separations of time and less than ideal history. Let's pray Jesus' prayer from John 17 that we would be one with Him and each other and that the world would know that we are His followers because of the way we love one another.
Last call to help with Cesar Gonzalez' medical bills. If God has nudged you to help carry Cesar's financial burden, please give ASAP. We will pass those funds on to him as soon as we get them.
Next week we will be doing the Nebraska Play. Story. Eat. Experience at Camp Witness November 3-4. Let us know if you have any Nebraskans we need to invite at the last minute.
PS... Investing Information
You can mail checks to:
Daybreak International, 11628 Oakmont St., Overland Park, KS 66210
On PayPal, you can give using the email email@example.com.
On our websites, you can give at www.PlayStoryEat.com or www.DaybreakInternational.org.