By Jim Fishel:
Changes are a necessary part of life. Without changes we would not mature or gain skills or meet new friends. For example, as parents we are always looking for changes in our children. We look for the first step, the first word, the first report card from school. We want our children to change from infants to toddlers to teens and finally to mature adults. Change sometimes scares us because we don’t know what is ahead of us. What challenges will we face if we start doing things differently?
I remember some major changes that Sharon and I experienced without knowing for certain what the outcomes would be. In the first year of our marriage we were convinced that God wanted us to tithe, and though our income and expenses were very close we chose to follow God’s leading. That same week as a confirmation we had done the right thing I got to work some unexpected overtime with extra pay. I’d like to tell you that we never had a financial difficulty after that, but what I can say is God has been faithful and has provided our every need. When our two daughters were still small we were convinced we needed to move our family out of California. So we moved to Oregon in 1976 without a job to go to or a house to live in. We just packed up our belongings and moved. We were trusting God to provide the things we needed because He knew all about us and certainly knew all our needs.
We bought a 6 acre property of trees, ferns and poison oak and built a home. The mid Willamette Valley in 1976 was experiencing a minor drought. As a confirmation that God was in this move, we planted a garden that God watered with small clouds that only dropped water on the garden. We raised our girls along with rabbits, chickens, sheep, pony, horse, goat, dogs and cats with no prior experience except for the dogs. The most important change for us though was attending and getting involved in the Veneta Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. We had missionaries stay in our home and their impact on us and our children is immeasurable.
My employment was on and off and in 1988 I was offered a position in Portland. After much prayer we decided to try to sell the house and all the animals (except the dogs). Sharon contacted a local church that put out a weekly newsletter and in less than a week we had sold or given away all the animals and had an offer on the house. This was another confirmation that God was in this move also.
Another big change came in 1994 when we became grandparents and I can tell you if I knew how fun that was I would have traded raising kids to being grandpa. In 1995 our other daughter married and made us empty nesters. We had planned for this change by following some advice we had received years before to maintain our "two" while we were a family of four.
The next big change came last year. During my routine annual physical my Doctor asked "How are you feeling?" As a man my usual response has been" Fine", but this time I said "I get a slight pain in my chest when I mow the lawn." He set me up for a stress test which I failed and a couple of weeks later had bypass surgery. Now I have to change a few of the habits I have had in order to provide a healthier environment for my heart.
It is easy to develop habits or behaviors by just doing the same things over and over. I’m not referring just to bad habits or things I should not be doing, but to the patterns that our lives develop in ordinary daily living. For most of the last 53 years I’ve been waking early, dressing, eating breakfast, driving to work, coming home, eating dinner, going to bed and starting the same process over the next day. Weekends varied the routine, but what I’m saying is that habits develop. Changing those habits is going to be a challenge.
At the end of July we started our latest life change. Sharon and I retired. I wanted to retire years ago but had to wait for my child bride to get old enough to join me. Retirement will be a big change in our lives and I like the challenges that this change brings. For the last 3 months my alarm clock has been set about 4 times. The habit of early rising has been broken without a struggle.
Pastor Nick’s latest sermons on freedom are an exciting series of making necessary changes to move from sin to righteous behavior. I expect the truth of God’s Word to reveal sin in me and continue to set me free.