If he were to begin the account, I believe Dad would say what he said to Swede and me on the worst night of all our lives:
We and the world, my children, will always be at war.
Retreat is impossible.
~ Reuben Land in Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger ©2001
We and the world, my children, will always be at war
I am a war baby – born in Darnell Army hospital at Ft. Hood, Texas. My Dad was a helicopter pilot in the First Cavalry. He was in Vietnam on my first Christmas and birthday. I am descended from soldiers. My Grandpa Wiechman was wounded in London during WWII. My Grandpa Price was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne and served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was part of the raid on Hitler’s Eagles Nest. My father-in-law, great-grandfather, brother-in-law, and a few cousins have served. It is my heritage.
I have never served a single day in the military of my country. And yet, I have always been drawn to movies, books, and stories of epic struggles against a mighty enemy that requires courage, sacrifice, resolve and enormous love. It flows in my veins.
Seven years ago I was getting my butt kicked. I was a pastor. It was 2014. I was driving down I-10 in Houston thinking how nice it would be to end up in a hospital so I could get a break. I felt weak. I wanted to be strong, but I was fighting a battle and losing. Not only that, but I was pretty sure I was fighting the wrong battle.
Dying is hard enough. Dying for something not worth dying for is stupid! But what else is there? I gave my life to follow Jesus into pastoral ministry because that was worth it. But what I was doing was not that anymore.
I didn’t know it then, but I was so bloody and wounded because I was fighting someone else’s war – a war that had distracted me from my first love – the enormous love of God that instills courage, sacrifice, and resolve into even the weakest of men.
That Enormous Love fought his way into my bloody battle and rescued me. He recovered me in every sense of the word. That’s a whole other story for another time. For our purposes, I want to take you to a time of prayer as autumn turned to winter in 2014.
Bloody, and battle-worn I gathered with my wife and two couples who were friends. We were asking God questions and listening for his Spirit to answer. This was new territory for me (and also another whole story for another time). When we asked God, “How do you see me?” I was skeptical that anything would happen. In my spirit I clearly heard and saw “my soldier.”
I was confused. I felt anything but a soldier. Honestly, I cried. We talked and prayed about it together some that night, then I shut that journal and ignored it until Jesus brought it up again in 2017.
Retreat is impossible
In January of 2015 I resigned my call as a pastor.
Isn’t that retreating, Steve?
Honestly, I thought it was. And if you only had my perspective and motives, that might be exactly what it was. But that was not the mission Jesus was on!
It has taken years, but Jesus has been refitting me to recommission me.
What I have experienced over the last seven years has been nothing short of excruciatingly miraculous refitting! At times it’s been difficult to describe to people what God has done for me…and to me. My response has been quite ugly sometimes (hence, some of my long quiet periods). The Holy Spirit has been refining me – undoing and unlearning so much.
In November of 2017 God birthed Breathe Life Ministries through Jamie and me as part of our recommissioning. Jesus was in no way done refitting us, but he was already giving us new missions – missions that included a lot of on-the-job training! We still found it difficult to describe what we did. To most people we sounded like a retreat ministry for burned-out or burning-out church workers. We even said lots of things that sounded like that.
But retreats are not the recommissioning we were given by God.
As far back as 2015, before we had even conceived of a Breathe Life Ministries, God put some pictures on our heart of land in Texas where we would do ministry for Christian leaders. One of the pictures we had was of tents spread out as far as the eye could see over numerous acres – like the scene of an army encamped.
For all the chaos and unanswerable questions of the last two years, one thing has become crystal clear to me: we are in a war. A war between light and darkness, between life and death, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. A war that is being played out in the hearts and minds, and the flesh and blood realities of real people in real time and real places.
God desires to lead us into this battle for victory – that many would be snatched from the clutches of the enemy who desires to destroy every person. To do this, God desires to raise up men and women of strength, character, faith, and courage forged in deep reliance on Jesus, his Word, and the gift of the Holy Spirit lived out in close community. Our culture is crumbling in fear, chaos and anger before our very eyes. And now, the church structures, tools, and paradigms of our most recent generations are shaking and cracking, but our Lord and his good news are not.
The recommissioning we have received from God is to recover, refit, and recommission his leaders for the battle of faith being waged in our day. The servant-leaders of this next generation will be battle-tested. They will sacrifice what is considered “normal” and “reputable” to follow Jesus into the fray. And they’ll do it because Jesus has met them over and over and over in their battles and their wounds and their fears and proven faithful. God has refitted and recommissioned us over the last seven years. It looks completely different than the way we lived the first sixteen years of our marriage. In the 82 months since January 2015, we’ve worked and lived in lots of different settings and places. Income is completely fluid. We’ve given away almost everything we own on two separate occasions. We’ve spent everything we have, retirement included, because we believe in where Jesus is leading. We’ve done it because we see Jesus show up with the people we serve and recover them – recover their first love, recover their identity, and recover their courage because of his strong arm in their lives! Recently, one of our clients said, “After meeting with you I feel like I could walk through a brick wall!”
All of this to say, we are at a critical crossroads in our involvement in the war. 2021 has been a very low year in giving for Breathe Life Ministries – our lowest. In November, Jamie and I will need to take on other employment to take care of our family. We will continue to meet with clients as we can fit them into whatever our new schedule is. We meet with individuals, couples, and groups to pour God’s rest, healing, and play into the hearts of his leaders – vulnerable work that recovers, refits and recommissions them for battle. Getting other employment is not what we had anticipated or hoped for. But it will not deter us either.
We still envision Breathe Life Ministries as an actual place that functions like a field recovery hospital and staging area in the war of God’s kingdom breaking into the darkness, chaos, and death of this world. We still see it as a physical place where God’s servant-leaders are recovered, refit, and recommissioned to meet whatever reality stands in front of them with the real presence of God!
We believe that God has purposefully and strategically prepared us for what is happening in our world today – to build this recovery and staging area within 3 hours driving distance of the 4th, 5th, 21st, and 27th largest cities in the United States, and anchored in the middle of the country. Here, God will recover, refit, and recommission Christian leaders for missions in a dramatically different world than we have previously known. This recovery and staging ground will not be afraid of blood or of healing; of depending on God or of engaging the enemy. God’s already doing this in our rental home in Tomball, TX. If this sounds like something you want to see happen more, and would like to join in making into a greater reality, we’d love to have you link arms with us in prayer, connections, and significant finances. To God be the glory!
They overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
~ Revelation 12:11