Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.
1 Peter 4:12 NLT
Time sure does fly, no doubt about that. It has been over ten (10) years since I wrote “A Common Miracle,” and I would like to take this opportunity to reflect back on the faithfulness of the Lord in my life, and share with you, many of the surprising things that have happened to me over the last decade. I finished writing my book in late 2008, so it really has been nearly 10 years later in real time.
Surprised I have been. Blessed I have been. Tears I have shed, and sorrows I have experienced.
Only the Lord knows all things. He knows what lies ahead for each of us, and we find out as the days roll on. If given a chance to write our futures, I’m confident we would avoid at all costs the pains and difficulties that come our way. Who among us likes to experience that which causes us much sorrow. From blessings to batterings, from joy to pain, from worry to peace, from wondering to knowing, and from despairing to delighting.
In the most real sense of the word, our church is starting over. Calvary Chapel Visalia as a whole has changed both in who calls it their home, and the number of people who call it their home. Not long after I wrote “A Common Miracle” in 2008, our church lost well over half of its members. In fact, it started on a Sunday morning in the middle of the summer, during July.
We went from the peaceful, loving and joyful experience, and entered into a real and lasting nightmare. Indeed it was as they say, “The dark night of the soul.” I’ll spare you the details, but they were along the line of the kinds of sufferings that we are told about in the Bible. False accusations say it all. It’s hard to unring a bell once it’s been rung. I’ve found that to very accurate.
During a thirteen (13) year period, God was nowhere to be found, or so it seemed. I say or so it appeared, because that was indeed what if felt like to both my wife Gayle Grenier, myself and so many who stayed in our church.
So, what happened? Things got worse by the day. However, slowly but surely, Gayle Grenier and I began to “See the way’s of the Lord,” in the Bible. We were desperate for His help, and how faithful He was to begin letting us find peace as we cried out to Him. Over and over again we began hearing Him speak to us through His Word. Our Lord would faithfully have friends call us, or drop us an email, or a text and visit. My what refreshment and encouragement they were to our lives and ministry.
As mentioned the church is in a starting over phase as I write this on the last day of 2017, and we owe it all to the One who alone can save and rescue and bless. Painful as these last years have been, Gayle Grenier and I do not regret what we went through. Why? Because God allows trials to give us strength and steadfastness, and patience, and make us more like Him. And, we know that since our lives are not over yet, there will be more fiery trials ahead. Some we bring on ourselves, and some that God sends.
Our God is A Faithful God. He can be Trusted; He does not lie. His Word is true. And we find refuge and wisdom in His Word. The following verses say it all.
And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
Romans 8:17 NLT
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
Romans 8:18 NLT
Looking ahead, I’ve never been more enthused and eager to serve the Lord. I’m over 70 years old now and have been actively serving the Lord for 45 years. In July of 2018, Gayle and I can’t believe it will be Calvary Chapel Visalia‘s 40th year. I still remember the first time Gayle and I drove to Visalia from Eugene, Oregon, after meeting with the dearly missed, Pastor Chuck Smith, Founder of the Calvary Chapel Movement. As of today, Pastor Chuck’s, wife, Kay Smith, a truly remarkable example of a Godly woman, is living out her last years in peace and happiness. I am certain she is looking forward to seeing her husband when she enters Heaven.
We are focused on making disciples, being empowered by the Holy Spirit, devoting ourselves to God’s Word, fellowship with one another, prayer and remembering our Lord by and through the Lord’s supper. We also are sobered and pray to be so by our awareness of the need for unbelievers to be Born Again and saved from this perverse generation. We want to evangelize those who need Christ.
We have faithful elders and deacons, and many servants in our body. How glad I am to go into this new year, 2018, with them, by their side, and they by mine.
As you get older, and in my case now over 70 years old, you gain a certain appreciation for things you didn’t have when you were younger. Time doesn’t slow down, but I have noticed that Gayle and I are making the time to stop and appreciate the simple things in life. After going through a long trial, I will tell you that God will stay with you. It isn’t easy. It hurts. I know Gayle and I had many difficulties over the last 10 years. Marriage is work. You have to pray and be committed to obeying God. Being a Pastor doesn’t make your marriage or family perfect. Neither does being a Christian. I am often reminded that it is obeying God’s Word and trusting Him that is what will give you the fortitude to handle things big and small. Nobody or anything is bigger than God.
On a personal note, I have the blessing of being a “Pet Parent” to Annie Grenier my English Golden Doodle. Her father was an All White English Golden Retriever, and her mother was a Black Poodle. I’m told Poodles are some of the smartest dogs, and most people know that Golden Retrievers have a warm and friendly personality. So, Annie is both smart and friendly. Annie will be four years old in March of 2018. I thank the Lord for Annie. She is a real blessing to Gayle and I. Our children and grandchildren. Our family discusses whether Annie will be in Heaven with us. I am optimistic that she will be!
Those of you that have known me many years, will remember I drove a classic Volkswagen Bug in the 90’s. The vehicle I currently drive is a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. It is the most enjoyable car I have ever had in my life. Believe it or not, this Volkswagen Beetle is very roomy and so comfortable. Quite a different experience from the one I had many years ago with no air conditioning in the hot summers of Visalia. If you are in Visalia anytime, you may see me driving with Annie in the car, and if you see us, please give honk and wave.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20 NLT
As I look back over the years, I am reminded that Our God is a Generous God, and loves to bless His children. One particular blessing that has come my way is a restored relationship with my son Paul Grenier. As with many families, we have had our share of challenges. God is the one who gets us through our challenges and turns them into great blessings. Such is the case with my firstborn son Paul. Paul’s birth was about as big of a surprise to Gayle and I as was our move to Visalia when we started Calvary Chapel.
I would like to thank Paul for his love and incredibly hard work in serving the Lord through the use of his talents. Our reconciled relationship is one that we pray will be an encouragement to any who have pain and distance in their families. In chapter 14, there was advice that I wanted to pass on to people. We continue to learn from the trials we go through.
One piece of advice I would give to any family that is struggling or at odds is to keep the lines of communication open. Misunderstandings and not communicating can be the very worst distance between people. I know that was so true for Paul, Gayle, and myself. I say this because I want to encourage you never to give up on the power of prayer. Faith can move mountains. Pray fervently as Cathe Laurie so often says. God is the great reconciler, and He loves you and your family members more than we know. So, please don’t give up. God can do it. Even when it seems you can’t. God will never forsake His children.
May God cause His face to shine upon You and give you His peace.
Pastor Bob Grenier
Calvary Chapel Visalia