Willie Nelson sings a song with the lyrics, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end.” Next week the lights will turn off for my column. Next week will be my last column, at least for now, at least for Forum Communications. Last Monday, through a kind and encouraging conversation, I was notified that my column was being discontinued. Both of my children laughed when I told them I had been fired. Come to think of it, my wife chuckled also!
I started writing for Forum Communications on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. It was not an opportunity I pursued. In October of 2016, Bill Marcil Jr., CEO and publisher of Forum Communications, invited me to meet with him in his historic office in downtown Fargo and asked if I would be interested in writing a weekly column. After consulting with God and my wife, I told Bill “Yes!” the next day. Bill gave me freedom to write as I chose. He opened the door, provided me encouragement, and for that I will always be thankful.
I grew up and grew into a nerdy engineer. Math was my forte. I placed in a regional math contestant in Minot my senior year in high school. My name was called out over the loudspeaker during announcements at Williston High School the next day. I was embarrassed. Everyone in my homeroom looked at me and many congratulated me. I said less than 100 words all through high school. My junior year at North Dakota State University I entered a math contestant, took third place, and won a couple hundred dollars! The head of the math department asked me to be a teacher’s assistant after seeing how well I did in that contest.
But writing? Public speaking? Me? No way! Put me in a cubicle. Give me problems to solve and I will be content. But God had other plans. There was a dormant gift he had put in me; a gift that I must totally rely on him to even attempt. If my public speaking or writing in any way impacts someone positively, it is only because God is speaking and writing through me. I can be outstanding at math with or without God. But not writing or speaking…only with God!
In 2000 God invited my wife and I to step away from everything comfortable; to quit our jobs and move from Minneapolis to Fargo to start a new church. I had preached five times in my life. The sermons were not very good. For the first three years of preaching, I threw up every Sunday before leaving our home. I was so nervous, but God was teaching me to trust him, to be obedient and faithful, to live with courage, passion, and integrity.
Every time I consider resigning from writing this column, I get an email from one of you, the readers, thanking me or telling me how the column impacted them. So, I continued. Now, the decision was made for me. I’m OK with it. I came into 2021 with a commitment to write my first book. I put it on hold while I serve a church in Wisconsin for 4 months. But now I will work on it quietly behind the scenes. It’s what’s next for me.
Jon is a pastor and leadership coach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org