ON TURNING 48

Reflections on My Other Birthday

Spiritual, that is.

December 14, 1972 the wind of the Spirit blew irresistibly (John 3:1-8) into my life through a gospel conversation.

My eyes opened, my chains fell off, my heart was free. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound indeed!

As I savored this morning’s coffee, overlooking the Idaho winter landscape, I marveled. That day nearly five decades ago, I decided to follow Jesus–and I’ve yet to look back, by God’s grace.

A very twisted and curvy road with traffic seen from above

The Twists and Turns

So many on this faith journey! Here is just a sample . . .

Left home (1973)–long story–some poor choices on my part. Fabulous first wife, Nancy (1974). Two beautiful sons, Joshua (1978) and Joel (1980). Seminary MDiv (1979-82). DMin degree (1997). Y2K wilderness trial (1998-2000)–even longer story. Head and neck cancer/treatment (2005). Cancer free (2010)! Death of beloved firstborn (2014). Jaw failure (2015). Death of beloved bride (2016). Jaw reconstruction (2016). Rockstar second wife, Jan (2017). Semi-retirement and book published (2018). COVID-19 pandemic (2020).

The banner of certain Scriptures waves over all the above and more. All things work together for good (Romans 8:28). My grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21). Sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10). To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Palestinian shepherd

Ever the Shepherd

Some may wonder, why no mention of all the churches served? Good question. They are so significant, so integral a part of my story, they deserve separate attention.

Christ Church of Valley Forge, now Calvary Fellowship (1972-79)
Grace Evangelical Free Church (1982-85)
Orlando Community Church (1985-1991)
Vista Community Church (1992-1998)
Orlando Grace Church (2001-2018)
Trinity Reformed Baptist Church (2019-present). Website under construction.

Each has served my spiritual growth with its own unique emphasis. I’m thankful for them all.

CCVF taught me the essential of servant leadership which does not lord authority over others but influences by godly example (Matthew 20:20-28).

Grace EV Free taught me a lead pastor’s first church is more about where he needs to slay his own idols and grow in Christ-likeness than how much he impacts others (1 Timothy 4:12).

OCC gave me a pastor to shepherd me through my cancer and always be my friend (Proverbs 18:24). Thank you, John Christiansen.

Vista taught me you can take calculated faith risks and see God work in amazing ways, but take nothing for granted along the way (Hebrews 11:6).

OGC taught me to never step into the pulpit with anything less than a passion to make much of God for the joy of His people (2 Corinthians 1:24).

TRBC is teaching me that God is always working to transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:1-2) and, as in all the beloved churches above, He often ordains conflict as an opportunity to glorify God, grow in Christ-likeness, and love and serve others. There has never been a more challenging year to shepherd than 2020.

Lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes and more are to come, but I praise God for the lessons learned.

Motivational and inspirational quote.

Where My Reflections Land

It is God and His great power which has kept me thus far (Jude 1) and will keep me to the end (Jude 24-25). Thanks be to His mighty name!

I long to stay in the race running well by faith in Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) to my 50th spiritual birthday and beyond, Lord willing.

Nothing less than steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, while He gives me grace, will suffice (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Why? Because, as the rest of the verse promises, the labor is not in vain. Hallelujah and Amen!

MY WASTING RIGHT HAND

Surgery on Monday to Restore Its Use

I keep thinking I’ve run out of downstream consequences of radiation treatment to my neck so many years ago. Not so!

The latest version of guess-what-we-get-to-deal-with-now is the near uselessness of my dominant hand.

I’ve struggled with neuropathy in my right hand fingers ever since chemo in 2005. But lately the numbness and tingling there has increased so much that I’ve lost nearly all tactile sensation. I’m down to my thumb and index finger for typing. On top of that, significant muscle wasting has occurred in the hand such that I have very little strength for every day tasks. I compensate a lot with my left hand, but I sure miss Mr. Right.

A nerve conduction study revealed that the median and ulnar nerves on that side have stopped working. Two different hand surgeons believe the place to begin for any hope of relief–they make no guarantees–involves carpal & cubital tunnel (elbow) surgery to relieve compression to those nerves.

The outpatient surgery will last about 90 minutes. I’ll wear a wrist-to-armpit cast for two weeks and then a brace for another two followed by therapy, leaving me without use of my right hand for about six weeks. Anybody know a good OT I can call? 🙂

I’ve enjoyed a couple years off from general anesthesia. At least doctors aren’t slicing into my neck this time! But here we go again.

I’m finding comfort and encouragement from a verse like 2 Corinthians 4:16:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

My right hand wastes away for sure, but we hope to improve that with these procedures. But even if we don’t and knowing the rest of my body with age continues to decline over time, I don’t lost heart.

God continues to renew my spirit day by day through the means of grace that are his word, prayer, and people. He is continually with me; he holds my right hand (Psalm 73:23).

Your prayers are coveted and much appreciated on Monday at 9 AM Pacific time.

A BIRTHDAY GREETING TO MY BRIDE

63 Reasons I’m Crazy About You

Jan Leslie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

I’m crazier about you more than ever.

Here are 63 reasons you might like to know–just sayin.

One, you love Jesus more than me.

Two, family matters to you, bigtime.

Three, your gift of encouragement.

Four, your gift of mercy.

Five, your gift of music–piano every night!

Six, your love for creation.

Seven, your passion for taking pictures of just about everything.

Eight, your compassion for the hurting.

Nine, your love of my cooking.

Ten, your inquisitive nature.

Eleven, your delight in other people’s stories.

Twelve, your joy in playing games.

Thirteen, your Costco joke.

Fourteen, your incredible smile.

Fifteen, your guarding of our oneness.

Sixteen, your ministry of greeting cards.

Seventeen, your ministry of soup making.

Eighteen, your willingness for me to rub your feet.

Nineteen, your reading through the Little House books with me.

Twenty, your partnership in doing hospitality.

Twenty-one, your insistence that we walk and workout.

Twenty-two, your healthcare experience for my aging body.

Twenty three, your infectious laugh.

Twenty-four, your modesty.

Twenty-five, your gracious, forgiving spirit.

Twenty-six, your being easily led.

Twenty-seven, your generosity.

Twenty-eight, your courage in facing the unknown.

Twenty-nine, your view of every little child as “How cute!”

Twenty-nine, your hope one day to see a moose.

Thirty, your flexibility (middle name).

Thirty-one, your fierce desire to know more.

Thirty-two, your teachability.

Thirty-three, your commitment to discipleship.

Thirty-four, your fear of God.

Thirty-five, putting your hand to this plow.

Thirty-five, for teaching me to pursue my grandkids more.

Thirty-six, for telling me “I’m proud of you.”

Thirty-seven, for watching some football with me.

Thirty-eight, for editing my writing.

Thirty-nine, for laughing every time I say that thing.

Forty, for wanting to understand me better.

Forty-one, for being willing to live in Idaho.

Forty-two, for actually liking the mobile home.

Forty-three, for walking by faith and not by sight.

Forty-four, for shooting straight with me.

Forty-five, for not expecting me to read your mind.

Forty-six, for letting me say the same words to you every night.

Forty-seven, for never going to sleep at night angry at me.

Forty-eight, for loving the mountains as much as I do.

Forty-nine, for letting me abscond with you to Idaho.

Fifty, for being totally gorgeous.

Fifty-one, for being my very best friend.

Fifty-two, for being my cheerleader.

Fifty-three, for doing premarital counseling with me.

Fifty-four, for never shaming me.

Fifty-five, for being quick to forgive.

Fifty-six, for loving to grocery shop.

Fifty-seven, for not loving any other kind of shopping.

Fifty-eight, for always believing the best.

Fifty-nine, for loving to drive as much as possible.

Sixty, for being so relationally wired.

Sixty-one, for NEVER being insecure about a statement about  Nancy.

Sixty-two, for loving me so fiercely, truly, and unconditionally.

Sixty-three, for making this way too easy for me.

I love you, BG!

May the Lord grant us many happy returns together.

 

STANDING OVATION FOR NURSES

A Re-Post Necessary for COVID-19 Times

Nurse wearing respirator mask holding a positive blood test result for the new rapidly spreading Coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China

I’m not sure I’ve ever done this before and I’ve blogged for quite some time.

However, pandemics change things–do they ever!

I’ve worked through health challenges over the years. Some have been worse than others; most, I suspect, have been less.

But through them all, nurses have served me countless times in ways too numerous to document.

In this pandemic, once again, they demonstrate nobility extraordinaire.

For every one of you who has cared for me in Orlando and Miami, I salute you.

May this re-post urge others to add their encouragement.

For a quick read of the original post, click A Most Noble Profession.

Question: When has a nurse come through big time for you?

88 YEARS & FOUR MORE THANKS

Doing the 5th Commandment on Dad’s Birthday

Dad Motorcycle

 

Richard Howard Heffelfinger turns 88 today. FYI, the image above was taken a few years ago.

Happy Birthday, Pop! Wish Jan and I could be there to celebrate with you and the family.

Four years ago for Dad’s 84th birthday,  I posted a similar, but tad longer blog:

84 Years and 84 Thanks

Recalling and rereading that special post today brought to my mind additional things which require an update to the record about the man I call “Dad.”

85. Supporting me through the loss of Nancy and my two-year jaw reconstruction process.

86. Welcoming with open arms and a loving heart, Jan Leslie, the extraordinary gift of a second rock star wife in my lifetime.

87. Releasing me to yet another cross country relocation decision to do what I believed the Lord would have me do in this stage of semi-retirement. You have never tried to live my life for me or try to control me.

88. Doing what it takes to care for Mom as she progresses through this horrible Alzheimer’s which robs so many of a more peaceful and delightful final season of life.

Honor your father and mother–the 5th Commandment (Exodus 20:12).

And so I do. Thanks, Pop, for adding to the list as the Lord continues to give you length of days.

Hey, here’s an idea. How about we shoot for 90!

 

HEADED BACK EAST

Info About a Peacemaking Speaking Engagement

Biblical phrase from matthew gospel, blessed are the peacemakers

On October 17, next Thursday, Jan and I fly to Orlando for a two-week visit to the southeast, Lord willing.

We have a number of family, dentist, and ministry commitments on the books for which we are excited. It is shaping up to be a jam-packed itinerary!

I am particularly grateful for the invitation from my friend and fellow FIRE pastor, Mitch Pridgen, to preach at his church on Sunday, October 20. Jan also will sing and play one of her original songs.

I last met Mitch at the FIRE international conference in May. It gave me great pleasure to gift him a copy of my book, The Peacemaking Church.

He immediately extended the invitation to come and bring a message on preserving church unity on my next visit to Central Florida. Title and text are pictured in the graphic above.

I have been encouraged to bring copies of the book and will sign copies following the service. This both thrills and humbles me for the opportunity to spread my passion for biblical conflict resolution.

This passion was formed over my years as pastor at Orlando Grace Church and reaffirmed most recently as an ever-present need in the church as we’ve lived this past year in Idaho.

Crosswalk Church is located in Daytona Beach. Their worship service starts at 10 AM on Sunday mornings.

I would be most grateful for your prayers for this event and the possibility to see anyone who might make their way there that day!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JLH!

Why I Praise God for Each Day of Your Births

Jan at Glacier

Some occasions require a blogger to get personal. This is one of them. My bride of thirty months, Jan Leslie Heffelfinger, observes another birthday today–her physical birth.

Thanks be to God she is twice born–by his grace having been born again from above (John 3:3) in her youth.

Today I, her HOHCIL husband, celebrate both epic events for the avalanche of benefits she imparts to me and countless others.

Here are some, but by no means all.

Jan, thank you for loving Jesus more than you love me/anyone. Your God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-dependent commitment makes you the fountain of overwhelming blessing that you are to all who know you. That’s all about your second birth.

Jan, thank you for taking the risk, after years of contented singleness, of “putting your hand to the plow” (your words) of marriage to me. I was, am, and will always be your pastor–caring for the wellbeing that matters most in your life–the spiritual, but without neglecting the rest of my responsibilities for covering you with my wings (Ruth 2:12).

Jan, thank you for partnering with me in the demands, challenges, delights, and privileges of pastoral ministry in this surprising late-stage season of service to Jesus and his church in my running of the race (Heb. 12:1-2).

Babe, I don’t know for certain, but I have my doubts, that I would be shepherding God’s people anywhere at age 67, let alone in rural Idaho, without your persevering prayer, relentless encouragement, tireless relational ethic, and gifted-in-so-many-ways service.

Good grief! I so appreciate the countless ways you enhance the ministry of our church.

Jan, bless you–woman of faith and sacrifice–for leaving home, family, and all things Florida-familiar to follow me into the unknown in a state famous for its potatoes. You certainly did mean all that you promised and conveyed in this tune you chose for our wedding.

 

Jan, thank you for modeling peacemaking virtue in our marriage.

When I fall short of God’s ideal in our communication, your consistency in speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and engaging me in the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), call me back to practice the very things I pursue in my writing.

God has taught you so much over the years!

That I am the beneficiary of your maturity and wisdom-from-above faith (James 3:17-18) blows me away with God’s goodness to me. You make me want to be a better husband and pastor.

Jan, thank you for teaching me that family commitments and relationships are no “debit” but great “credit” to be stewarded and enjoyed along the way of sacrificial ministry and church service.

I’ve been so short-sighted and selfish at times. And yet in addressing these shortcomings and blind spots in my slow-to-learn journey, you have never lost patience with me. You have never punished me. You have always sought to understand me better and work things through with me.

For these gifts and countless more, I celebrate each day of your births and ask as always, “Who am I?” (2 Sam. 7:18) to have been brought thus far by grace so amazing to be your husband.

Happy Birthday, BG!

I love you . . . (what I whisper every night to you before lights out).

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN 9 MONTHS OF SEMI-RETIREMENT

Pausing to Look Back for Takeaways about How to Move Forward

I wracked my brain wondering what to post this week.

Thanks to friend and writing mentor Chad Allen, I knew exactly where to head.

His timely post about his new season of self-employment inspired me to reflect similarly on my transition.

Your new life

Last August 15 I walked out the door for the last time as lead pastor at Orlando Grace Church.

Here are five significant takeaways from the journey thus far.

One, God is faithful to provide (Phil. 4:19).

When I put a succession process into motion at OGC, it took some risk-taking faith. Like many pastors in their later years, I’m not positioned financially to retire. While I desire to keep working at my calling, the fact is I must do so to provide for my household. I marvel how not once since the OGC paycheck ended have I needed to raid the buffer fund!

Takeaway: keep on trusting that He is a rewarder of those who seek him (Heb. 11:6).

Two, conflict is everywhere to steward (Matt. 5:9).

This reality hasn’t surprised me at all. I expected to find strained relationships and broken friendships in rural Idaho just as they exist in metro Orlando. But the extent of these challenges in our valley has at times taken my breath away. There is a need here for peacemaking help.

Takeaway: stay on mission helping churches and their people do their best at preserving unity (Eph. 4:1-3).

Three, help is essential to succeed (Gen. 2:18).

Nobody thrives or survives in the pastorate full-time or part-time by flying solo. We need a ton of help. Jan excels in her role as this shepherd’s wife! I don’t even want to imagine trying to serve Trinity Church without her persevering prayer, relentless encouragement, and relational skills.

I’ve also found help from my fellow elders at Trinity as well as other area pastors by joining the local ministerial association. I know next to nothing about pastoring in a rural context. These servants have much to teach me and I’m eager to learn.

Takeaway: do a lot of listening to wise counselors (Jas. 1:19).

Four, relationships are costly to build (1 Pet. 4:8).

One local pastor reminded me recently of the adage “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Stepping into a new culture and church brings the challenge of investing in relationships to build trust and connection. That takes time, energy, even money because few things build relational intimacy like sharing a meal together.

Takeaway: take initiative regularly to practice hospitality with joy (1 Pet. 4:9).

Five, time is precious to redeem (Eph. 5:15-16).

According to my employment agreement with Trinity, I’ve got 20 hours each week to spend on pastoral ministry. Our elders insist that I stay around that target, though we all know some weeks will require more time.

They want me to enjoy this new season by not overworking. How sweet is that!? They’ve got me keeping a daily log of how I use my time. At the 90 day mark of service we will review the results to take stock of my stewardship.

Takeaway: prayerfully choose each day’s activities to make the most of every opportunity (Psalm 90:12).

Whatever your vocation–full-time, part-time, semi-retired or retired–I trust these reflections apply to your realm and might help as you move forward into your future!

Question: What in this article has been most helpful to you?

PASTOR AND WIFE BEGIN NEW SEASON

Minister Emphasizes Need To Live to the Fullest, Maintain Peace

Anniversary Trip 036

Curt & Jan on vacation in Laguna Beach, California

 

This article by Ben Jorgensen appeared recently in “The Clearwater Progress.” It is reprinted with permission.

After living most of his life in big cities, Curtis Heffelfinger is relishing his new pastorate responsibilities at Stites.

Heffelfinger, 66, isn’t a newbie to the area having previously bought a Wall Creek property in 1999 and moving there with his first wife Nancy. However, they returned to the Orlando area soon after for what they anticipated would be a year to help their children’s families before returning to paradise. 

After becoming involved with Orlando Grace Church, Heffelfinger ended up becoming their pastor when the church leadership imploded in conflict. “All the pastors resigned. They turned to me being an interim pastor.” The concept of interim turned into 15 years while Idaho’s verdant valleys and backyard visits of elk were put on hold for a bit.

During his time in Florida, Heffelfinger learned well the value of peace and the preciousness of opportunity. In 2005, Heffelfinger developed a cancerous lesion on his tongue, eventually resulting in removal of about a third of the tongue. His treatment of chemo and radiation would surface health ramifications years later. “My oncologist said your odds are 50-50 for survival, at best,” he said.

Based on the prognosis, the couple felt he would likely be gone first. “Here I am Sunday in and Sunday out preaching the gospel and proclaiming eternal life and that dying is gain.” He said if God is not done with him then he wants to live the message of 1 Cor. 15:50-58, “always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

Then out of the blue, Nancy developed ovarian cancer and after an 18-month battle, died in 2016 after 41+ years of marriage. Losses seemed to come in waves. Their first born son died in 2014 at age 35 followed in 2015 with the disintegration of Curtis’ jaw caused by his earlier cancer treatments.  

His mandible fractured as a result of the radiation and he lost all his teeth on that side of his jaw. The fix involved a titanium implant the length of the side of his face, a bone graft from his hip used for a new jaw, and implants for  teeth. The treatment left that part of his face numb.

Coupled with the reduction of his tongue, it requires a dedicated effort to articulate speech.

The losses have not gotten him down, though, because he is encouraged by the goodness God has provided. He said he has been blessed with a second dynamo wife, Jan, who although she always lived in the Orlando area, was willing to move to Stites—population 228—to see what awaited them. “It’s such an answer to prayer that she is so happy here,” he said.

Their arrival at Stites was also an answer to the prayers of a group of about 30 core church goers. The two-and-a-half-year-old Trinity Reformed Baptist Church had been earnestly praying for a pastor.  “They were kinda holding on by their fingernails,” said Heffelfinger, noting “if the Lord wasn’t going to send somebody they were going to close the doors.”

He noted that the church’s confession of faith is the same as Orlando Grace where he pastored. “What are the odds?  Fifteen minutes from my property is a church with similar convictions, commitments, desires, in other words, it’s a match made in heaven.”

After a period of six months Heffelfinger was installed on Palm Sunday as a paid part-time pastor. His first full service occurred this past Sunday. “We’re so happy to be here,” he said. “This is a new season for us. We’re happy to have a church that has embraced us. I’m thankful I can preach the gospel.”

The part-time status gives Heffelfinger the chance to pursue his interest in religious writing. Based on his more than 30 years in the pastoral ministry, he penned the book, The Peace Making Church: 8 Biblical Keys to Resolve Conflict and Preserve Unity, describing the need for people to strive for peaceful interactions. The book may be found on Amazon.com.

“I write all the time on how you can guard the peace of your church, how you can support your pastors and elders and leaders and keep your people from melting down in conflict. It’s such a terrible witness when we turn on each other,” he said. He also writes a regular blog. He strives to encourage people to own the message of Matt. 5:9 about the blessedness of peacemakers.

His passion for God’s message is fueled to some degree by his brush with death. “Cancer changes your life significantly,” he said. “You see the brevity of life and the gift that it is, that no day is guaranteed. You want to make the most of the opportunities the Lord gives you day in and day out. I think the first way it changed me, I really believe, is what I preach.”

Heffelfinger intends to use whatever remaining time he has “to live to the fullest for the Lord and for His people and for the region now that I am in.”  He wants Trinity to be mission minded in the Clearwater Valley, noting that it tends to be a natural inclination for people, regardless of where they live, to turn inward.

Citing the message of Matthew 5 to let one’s light shine with good works, Heffelfinger says he is contemplating how local churches can together serve people and make a difference in their lives.

“What needs are there? How are we to be on mission in good works and wise words of encouragement, counsel, sharing our stories and God’s love in Jesus Christ? It’s not just about proselyting. It’s about genuinely loving, caring, and serving, and loving your neighbor as yourself.”

Trinity Reformed Baptist Church holds service every Sunday at 10 a.m. followed by a fellowship meal. It is located in a community center at 4313 Highway 13. Heffelfinger may be reached at (321) 947-8171.