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Why Am I Going?
by Chris Bee
Chris Bee’s true narrative of his unsuspecting role in the sign and wonder answer to an eGroup prayer request is entertaining and a reminder of how delightfully mysterious are the ways our Father God works.
Do you ever feel like there is more to something and you just can’t put your finger on it? Or like you are compelled to do something that doesn’t make sense at the time or maybe you think you should do something but just don’t have your heart in it? Sometimes our mission begins way before we realize it. I had one of these moments recently and continue to find myself talking about it. So I will put it on paper or at least a computer screen.
Earlier in June 2011 I began a journey that I could never have imagined would work out this way. It all began with me being lost and trying to rebuild myself. Why does so much good come from brokenness? I was taking a seminar on career searching, put on by Crossroads ministry at Calvary Church. At one particular meeting on networking, a lady at my table asked if we had ever used Meetup.com to get out and network. I vaguely recalled hearing of the site but had never used it. I figured that I did need to get out and start connecting and networking more so I checked it out and signed up for a Sales Breakthrough meetup. I went to the Thursday morning meeting and felt very awkward. Why is it so hard for me to talk with people? This has always been very natural for me but I am really struggling with this. Opening up conversations has become so hard. I don’t want to take the risk that someone might reject me by not wanting to talk because I don’t have something to offer. But after all, I am a risk taker so here it goes… One lady I began talking with was really engaged in conversation with me until I started mentioning the calamity that my business and life were in. I get it! I mean who wants to hear about that stuff? I am sick of it too! The lady disappeared faster than I could say “nice to meet you”. I guess I need to be careful and not be too real with anyone. But that is who I am. It is my story that matters even if it is laced with failure and ugly junk. Doesn’t my story matter?
So at the conclusion I picked up a brochure for a speaking seminar that the host, Rochele, was doing in September. I took that home and put it on my desk where it began the journey from the top of the pile to the bottom and then off to the side. Then it went down for a long count and I didn’t see it for a while. My desk is normally a mess except for the occasional brief periods I actually get caught up and organized. But in a frantic cleanup one day it resurfaced and for some reason I just couldn’t throw it away(and I like throwing stuff away to simplify). Maybe I need to go to this thing. After all I actually like to speak publically and maybe it would help my conversation skills somehow. So back into the stack it goes to be reconsidered.
Well as the time progressed and I went to a few more meetups with this group. I kept hearing about this speaking seminar but just didn’t take action. In the meantime, I became compelled to start an eGroup (homegroup/smallgroup) at Elevation. After several attempts to talk myself out of it I really sensed God saying to do it, so I got involved, went through the training, and found myself at the BIG TENT EVENT for kicking off the fall eGroups. I am here because I believe God has a reason for what I am doing, but I really don’t like the whole popularity/groupy thing. So ok God who is this for? Just send them. So before the first Sunday service a guy walks up and signs up for the group. Yes Lord he is the kind of guy I see you bringing to the group. Now we are getting somewhere. After the two morning services and all the crazy buzz in the tent I still have one person on my list and everyone looking for a group wants to be in a GROUP not a fledgling startup for crying out loud! Can you blame them? I can’t because I don’t even want to be in my group right now. Hold on though, are we going to add one more to the group? A man from Waxhaw walked up to the table next to me and I thought that leader might point them my way due to proximity. And it just made sense! But no, that didn’t happen, so I packed up and walked over to a friend’s table. I talked with him for a minute and said I was leaving. He said “Maybe you should stay a little longer” I realized I had forgotten something on the table so I walked back over and the man that was from Waxhaw at the table next door stepped over to me and after about 30 seconds of brief discussion he signed up. I looked at my friend and said “Hey you were right, I needed to stay another minute”
Back at my desk and oh there is that brochure again. Still seeming to call me to this speaking seminar. But why do I need to spend the money on that when I feel I know how to speak fairly well. So in the garbage this goes. I am done thinking about it. After a while of getting some work done I couldn’t quit thinking that I need to take another look at the seminar, but why? I don’t need it. And I don’t need to spend the money on it for sure! So I go digging into the trash to retrieve the paper. Ah ha, there it is. Ok it will go back onto my desk to reconsider. But time has passed and now the promotional rate isn’t available because I have allowed the deadline for that to pass. So I am even less interested now since it will cost more.
Onward to preparing for my “Purpose and Journey” group. I have decided not to use a book so that I would have to come up with the discussion points and do some research. Brilliant! Now I actually have to do some work to pull this group off. Just what I need, another project. So, at my desk trying to prepare what we will cover over 7 weeks of Wednesday nights, I become stumped. I know the general stuff I want to get across which is basically what I have been learning in my own life. So I sit back, because I don’t want this to be about me or me just talking about stuff, and ask “God what do you want me to cover?” Immediately I began to write on some paper and quickly had six topics to cover. Again, I sat back and thought yea those are the basic elements of walking toward purpose or with purpose in our journey. The first topic was “Why were we created?” such a rhetorical question with an almost ridiculous, seemingly pious answer. But one we all too quickly forget. For relationship with God our Creator and King. Oh and in the process of being at my desk guess what resurfaced? Yea you got it. That pesky brochure on the speaking seminar.
Finally it is opening day for our group on Wed. night. Man I worked hard to fix a bunch of snacks and my house hasn’t been cleaner. I am frazzled as I need to go type up something that is in my head so I can give it to everyone else for our discussion. The first people start showing up. I am just not ready for this and am not in the relaxed state I need to be in. But this is an easy topic so it can’t be that bad. Right? Four people show up, that’s a good start. After everyone settles we get into the discussion and between interruptions from kids, theological debate, and silence from one person with a tensed up forehead I am thinking this isn’t going well. Such a simple subject, why is relationship with our God so difficult to get. Do we really need any more of an answer to anything, really. Is there really some magical thing we can do that makes us feel validated? We sure act like it as we pass right by God sitting quietly, waiting for us to stop and just enjoy some time with Him. And to me that is what the real Gospel is. One of a God that wants relationship, not performance from His children. So I just thought that the first meeting was really not very good. Was it me not being prepared enough or in the right state of mind or spirit. I guess I didn’t “perform” very well. Was no one connecting with what I was saying. It seemed that way to me.
Maybe I do need some training on speaking that would help me. I really thought that I had not connected at all to the group. So where is that brochure? Ah there it is under the pile of miscellaneous other stuff. Ok, I will contact the company and see if I could still get in and may even go for the tri-fecta with asking for the old discount that was long past expired. There, ok, hit SEND and it is off. Now let’s see how this works out. Not too long and a return email to set up a time to talk live. Good we are getting somewhere now.
I was at the State Builder Conference trying to get a read on the state of the industry and maybe learn some new stuff on the internet and social media. And that wasn’t going so well. At least the read on the industry wasn’t, as everything was so negative. However, the classes were actually good as I did learn some new things. And there is my call for our scheduled phone meeting. So I take it. Hello. Yes there is still room. Ok good. But about the price, I am the only one coming and can’t use the current promo of 2 people for the price of 1 so can I get the old promo rate? Well, are you sure you don’t know someone that could split the room cost and the seminar cost? No its just me. OK then, yes we will do that. Thanks you very much. I guess after all this time and just a week before the seminar I am finally registered to go. But I am still thinking WHY? But I am sensing that there is something more than just the content of the seminar that I am going for.
What is really going on here? I have a real sense that the seminar is just the vehicle for what is getting ready to happen. I am thinking that I am going to meet someone that will really have something to say to me or maybe will hear a story that will impact me. My friend Darrell came over on Saturday and I was telling him about it and he said that he could train me since he had been trained in the Dale Carnegie course. I said yea but I think this is about more than the seminar itself.
So Wednesday roles around and I am off to Charleston for the Thursday and Friday Seminar. I get in at 8:30pm and immediately get out to get something to eat. While walking down the street I realize I forgot all of my dress clothes. All I have is the pair of jeans I have on and a couple t-shirts. Great! Now I am not only going to feel out of place I will look out of place. But I am hearing, “ just role with it” that my friend Robinson has been telling me lately. I can’t go back and get them and there aren’t any stores I know of to go to at this hour. Yea that’s what I will do. But who is that I hear laughing? Oh yea, God, this is kinda funny isn’t it. I sure won’t be impressing anyone and it only forces me to adapt to exist out of the comfort zone. Good character building going on here!
OK so Thursday morning comes too quickly and here I go into the 20 or so other people with my jeans on and the polo shirt from the day before. At least no one had seen me wear it yet and it was a touch more formal than a t-shirt. So we jump right in and guess what the first discussion was about? What is keeping you from stepping up to speak and tell your story? Then next was a quick exercise about “What is Your Story?” What is this, I thought I was at a speaking seminar not the Calling Retreat I would be attending next week. This keeps coming up everywhere I go. The idea of Story. And there sure were some stories there. One woman was from Argentina and everytime she tried to say something she would go right back into her past and dig up a story to say what she was trying to get across. She was the most natural story teller I think I have ever seen. And then in a practice group a lady had a passion for educating people about mental issues with teens after her daughter was sexually abused and then killed herself at 14. When she finally gave her talk on Friday morning it brought the house to complete silence. And she got a standing ovation. Not because she did the best job presenting but because she told her story and it was compelling!
So as I was forced to work on my subject matter and what I would talk about (which began on the drive down Wed. evening knowing that I would have to have a point to talk on). The idea of accomplishment verse legacy has captured me lately so I begin trying to formulate something around that. But that is too large of a subject for a 5 minute talk. So at lunch I hang with the only two other guys and we go to get a burger. After telling a brief glimpse of my business whereabouts one looks at me and says you need to do maintenance contracts on homes. Interesting, I didn’t like the sound of it at first but it has set in with me and I am actually about ready to try to launch that idea. Is that what I came for? So Thursday afternoon we are supposed to put our talk together to give it on Friday. I get some rough draft done but am just stumped. So I decide my creative juices are not flowing and put it up to work on later that evening.
OK now for the fun stuff! Good eats in Charleston! I have been going to Charleston for a long time and know it fairly well. Why don’t I get there more often though? Anyway, my walk took me down past the market which has really changed with the new renovation work that is just finishing. Then out to the pier past the water fountain to look out over the bay. Then a phone conversation in the park with a woman I had recently been talking to over the phone but never met. We were having incredible conversations about faith and God on a very deep level. Man I am hungry now! So after walking past Rainbow Row and down E. Bay Street I stop at S.N.O.B. restaurant to see if I can get in.
Of course it is packed but I can sit at the community table by the kitchen if I like. But I didn’t really want to be in that awkward position of trying to start a conversation. So I agreed and was sat next to a lady about my age at the end of the table. She was talking to the folks next to her a lot so I guessed she was a talker. After beginning to look at the menu and deciding what to order it was time for me to take up the challenge to break into this conversation. After all, that was one of the reasons I was doing the speaking seminar to get better at conversation. I went in with the old “What did you have for dinner?” ice breaker. It worked. She told me and we were rolling into conversation. After the basic introductions of what do you do and why are you in town she asked if I thought the speaking seminar would be good for an introvert? That made me pause. Was she saying she was an introvert? Couldn’t be that since she was so talkative. But after further discovery it was exactly that. Leslie saw herself as an introvert. I can’t really remember the details of the chronology of the topics but we somehow managed to get to talking about faith and church. She said she was very liberal and even shared some things about herself that I think were meant to scare me away from the subject matter. She had grown up in a very fundamental religious home where the rules of living usurped the life of the Gospel. This was perfect setup for what I had to say. I told her that I get that and it’s too bad that the real gospel of a relationship with God isn’t what churches send out. She listened intently and the discussion went deep. I got to a point that I felt like I had said too much so I stopped and she returned to talking to the folks to her other side. Yep I did it again. I went to the depth of the story I am passionate about and look what happens. People run when I do that! But then she turned to me for more. Are you kidding me. This never happens. Somewhere in all of it the church I go to, Elevation, came up and she picked up on that right away. She said she had a neighbor that she thought may be trying to start an Elevation group in Raleigh, which is where she was from. I said that is possible because they have developed a program for people to start up groups all over the world. We finished our conversation as she ate her dessert and I said goodbye to her. Wow what was that all about?
Then I engaged the people that had been sitting on her other side and they were a nice older couple. We had some brief chit chat and they finished up and departed for their journey. Well I figured it was my turn to get done and move on. After all, I had a talk to go and prepare. So I paid the bill and walked toward the door to exit. Once outside I started going over the conversation and really felt like I just said to much. It was way to preachy and way too much to get into with someone that you don’t even know. I hope I didn’t do more damage than good. But as I walked I began getting a deep sense that this is why I was in Charleston. For this moment that just occurred. “Na, that is redicualous”, I thought. But maybe there is something to it. And no matter, I definitely had no problems with having that conversation. I basically just shared the “Real” Gospel to a woman that would never really have an interest in stepping into any church to hear it. And for good reason, if she did, would the gospel be just another set of rules and stuff we need to do or would it be about relationship with God?
Back in the hotel and too tired to develop my talk with talk block (same as writer’s block) setting in. OK I am going to bed and getting some sleep and will prepare tomorrow morning. Morning comes and I have a revelation on what I will write. I will relate how everyone is a builder by showing the similarities of building a house to building anything else in life. Now I am flowing. So off to the group again and we immediately start practicing our talks. We had 5 minutes and my first round only took 2. Then due to the others in my group either not doing a talk or not being completely ready, I got to practice 2 more times. And Jeff made a comment that stopped me in my tracks.
You see, Jeff was one of the most “executive like” in the bunch as he had played that role in life. My read on him was all business as he was on the phone all the time and just seemed like another busy businessman. So he wasn’t really qualified in my opinion to say what he was getting ready to say. He should have been all about business and not a whole lot about this idea of legacy and living out of purpose that I am onto. But after he had listened to 3 or maybe it was 4 run throughs by me he looked up and said “Its interesting, the last talk was all business and nothing about life but you started out by talking about life. You need to go back to the life part.” What? Really? Wow that is cool! Where did that come from?
Finally a break. I have figured out my talk needs to be longer so I will add more “life” to it in telling my story. But first let me check my email. Wayne had forwarded a story for his writer’s group to read. I began reading it and what am I seeing? Is this for real? The story was Bev’s story of how she had come to the place of feeling compelled to start an Elevation church. The kicker was that Bev is from guess where? You got it, Raleigh! No way. Is this Leslie’s neighbor? What are the odds? I hear “pay attention because I am going got use you to speak to people” What? Where did that come from? I don’t know for sure that this is the connecting link to my conversation yet. Bev’s email is in the address box so I email her later. But back to my talk right now.
OK so after about five or so people ahead of me, it is my turn. And in all my nervousness I of course have to explain why I am in jeans. In my normal manner I find a way to joke about it to tell the story. That had everyone laughing. I didn’t know I was going to need that good story to get a laugh but it worked out. So I delivered my talk. I expanded on my story. I slowed down and used some pauses. I focused on eye contact and being paced out. It felt good. Everyone was engaged with me as I made eye contact with everyone. Whew, finished. Man I don’t even remember hearing myself talk I was concentrating so much. Now for the critiques. Really good input and real confidence builders. Anne came up to me afterward and said something to me that was profound. She said “You have a legacy to talk about and it needs to be shared.” There is that word Legacy again. That was a word from God right there!
My mind turns back to the main event though as I have to know if this email about Bev is connected in any way to my conversation last night with Leslie. So I send an email to Bev. I ask “Do you have a neighbor Leslie? Because I sat down beside her last night and had a really good conversation on faith and her neighbor in Raleigh that wants to start an Elevation location there.” Bev emailed back and said “Praise the Lord. I am shocked she even remembered that conversation months ago. How do you know the Myers?” I said ”I don’t know the Myer’s. I just sat down beside the lady last night at dinner and we got into this conversation.” This began some excited emails back and forth as we realized what God had just done.
You see God had done something that none of us involved could ever see coming and didn’t even know that we were playing this incredible role in. This is the kind of stuff that all we can do is try our best to follow our hearts as they lead us toward what God has planned to do with our obedience to His voice. And not that it is crystal clear and that there is ever a master plan because if there was one, I would work the plan and never really grow in my faith to learn to listen to the drawing of my heart. I don’t know what it is about that presence, that sense, that is so mysterious but I know when I am able to connect to it, powerful things begin happening. I only hope I can carry this experience deep within me to know to pay attention, because if I am willing, God will use me to speak to people. And in the everyday turns of life, I will pay more attention to the leading of my heart. Because you never know what story you will find yourself in as you follow.
Copyright © 2011 Chris Bee