I’ve felt a closeness to God much of my life, but there have only been a handful of times when I felt like I “heard” God (not audibly) directing me personally. I’m writing about these times because they factor into why I feel God is shifting my calling of 35 years as a full time pastor into semi-retirement starting this July.

The first time was when I was stoned on the Hill in Boulder in the late 60’s (I know, I know, you can’t POSSIBLY imagine that) when a street preacher named Cliff Bajema talked about Jesus to all the hippies who would gather outside Phantasmagoria, the leather shop where I worked. I’d only heard the Catholic mass in Latin, so when I heard Cliff talk in plain English about Jesus it pierced me to the heart and I knew then and there that I wanted to follow on the heels of this Jesus.

Some years later I left Colorado and was in Ohio looking forward to getting my PhD in archaeology. When I was looking for a church in Ohio I couldn’t find any church I connected with. I was lamenting this fact to a woman who worked in a bookstore and she invited me to her church saying, “I really think you’ll like our pastor. His name is Cliff Bajema!” Yes, the same guy who was on the Hill in Boulder.

Well after a year of going to the Christian Reformed church that Cliff pastored, he asked me if I’d ever thought of going into ministry. Nope, I hadn’t. I wanted to dig stuff up. I asked him why he asked me that and he said, “You read every book I give you, you’re eager to teach any class I ask you. You clearly have gifts for ministry but I never hear you talk about it.”

After he asked me that question I went from never having thought about it to couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I realized, “Yes! This is what I should do with my life,” I thought I was ready to start doing ministry right then and there. A wise elder in the church said, “Part of your calling is taking time to retreat and prepare.” So I started into an additional 6 years of college and seminary, which was part of my sense of being “called.”

That sense of calling carried me pastoring 7 years in Webster, NY outside of Rochester, and 15 years in Boulder (the same church that had been sponsoring Cliff as a pastor of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at C.U.!)

Being a pastor at the church in Boulder was oftentimes a great experience, but it almost killed me … literally. To be continued next week

Nothing but love and a tease,

Mark