We are privileged to introduce Doug Iverson, a man whose drawn close to God’s heart and ministers as His shepherd. Pastor Doug introduced himself as a husband, father grandfather and God’s under-shepherd. He says, “My heart is to shepherd people, I delight in holding God’s sheep and actively being a part of their lives. Willing to have my sleeves rolled up and be in the midst of them. This is the music God’s asked me to play.” Wendy sees his ministry as a shepherd’s song.
Wendy first met Pastor Doug when I was a young, newly engaged girl. Her future husband, Chris, and her darkened the doors of the church he was shepherding. He took the time to pour wise counsel into them for several months and later performed their wedding. Twenty years later he was there to walk beside them through Chris’s cancer journey and stood with Wendy as she watched Chris walk into Jesus’ arms. Full circle from young bride to widowhood, it is Wendy’s privilege to introduce him as friend, family of God and her respected under-shepherd.
Thank you Pastor Doug, for being open to take the time to share your heart here in this blog project, it truly means so much. Wendy has valued your perspective and we both know that others will glean from your insight as God leads.
Wendy: Of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?
Pastor Doug: It would be Paul. He was a real guy, revealing himself in very human ways, struggles and victories. He realized and shared his heart and love for God boldly. Paul was an honest guy who motivated those around him, he loved deeply and was not afraid to get in there and work hard or say things that needed to be said.
Another reason I love Paul so much is his letters. His letters are the worn, much visited, places I refer to in my Bible. What I love about these letters Paul wrote, are his prayers. They are some of the most profound parts of Paul’s life. The aspect of prayer is so powerful in these books. Colossians 1;9-12 and Ephesians 1:17-23 are two that are significant to me. His desire to have such a personal relationship with both God and the people he shepherded, has impacted me deeply.
Colossians 1:9-12 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
Ephesians 1:17-23 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Through these profound prayers, at the beginning of the letters he was writing, I see the great relationship Paul had with the sheep he shepherded, the intimate love he had towards them and what he was willing to do on their behalf.
Wendy: What are favorite Scriptures and why do they mean so much to you?
Psalm 37:3-5 this is a desire, a challenge and a promise. It is a great encouragement. I felt it was something I could accomplish. “Do or do not there is no try.” Yoda (Star Wars) I love this quote, there is no try, we must do it or not do it, as it were. As a young believer I was just beginning to understand his faithfulness. This passage was an outline of sorts, something I could plug into then. Delight is still something I am grasping and experiencing. It never gets old or worn out. Delight is an infinite expression of a God beyond comprehension. I look forward to it’s newness each day.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 This passage is another special one to me. It ties in closely with the above scripture. It has been and is, from a shepherd’s, role, what really counts. It is about knowing Him so well that we can brag about who He is in us and our accomplishments. This Jeremiah passage puts daily life and our giftings and talents in perspective. What we should be boasting about is what we know He is doing and will continue to do through us. Thinking about what your testimony going to be, how your life light is going to shine and what your life song truly is… that is what counts, because God is at the center. It is Him who writes the words, shines the light and sings through us. People need to hear the music, before they will listen to the words.
People need to see how you live, before they are going to ask what makes you different. What we know as truth and how we live, can be used as an opportunity to point others to Christ.
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
Ps. 139:3. Also has a special place in my heart. When I was at Bible College, we had a scheduled time we were to be in the Word. Daily we had to be up at 6am. In one of those times I pulled out my Bible and journal and looked up on my shelf. An album my mother gave me caught my attention. It was filled with pictures from when I was very small to my 21st year. As I opened it and turned the pages marking my life, I thought, “He knew me then, He said, ‘I see you,’ then.” Then it really hit me as I opened my Bible to Psalm 139. What had been spoken to me in those pictures was confirmed in this Psalm.
This was a profound time of realizing how much He loved me. I was journaling and writing letters to a God that knew me and had a plan for me from the beginning of my existence. To know that he knew me in all my stages of life opened my eyes and heart.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
From a shepherd perspective all three of these passages are powerful. I had a wonderful mentor and he taught me, when sharing God’s word to remember this, to ask the Lord to empower the words I shared and if the passage in scripture doesn’t grip you then you shouldn’t be sharing. There hasn’t been a time I can remember that God’s word has not gripped me, because I know He “sees” me, He delights in me and has taught me to delight in Him anew each day, and I boast in Him because I know Him.
Wendy: Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Can you share a little about your dear friend Steve. You shared so much about him as your friend, his battle with cancer and his homegoing when Chris was diagnosed with Cancer and it was so comforting to us. I’d love to share that comfort with others.
As a very significant person in your life that influenced you, how did he shine the light of Jesus in your life?
Steve was my best friend, my brother… truly my brother. His memory stirs great emotion. We shared banter and humor as our brotherly love language toward each other. Steve shone the light of Jesus as he allowed me to come to him anytime. He gave me the privilege of sharing my heart in the hard times of ministry. Listening, directing and shepherding me in so many ways. He allowed me to express my emotions, to be angry, frustrated or sad and he loved me unconditionally. The truth that shone a bright light was that being part of the family of God, as Steve’s brother, was thicker than a blood relationship.
Wendy: How was your relationship with this dear brother and the places you walked together as brothers, used to draw you closer to Christ and how have you experienced God’s nearness through it?
When Steve was diagnosed with cancer, I spent hours and hours with him at his side. It was a painfully difficult process, but we faced it together. There was wordlessness, we just knew each other so well we could read each other, no words necessary to convey the depth of the process. There were actions, like when the cancer was back, we just embraced and cried. And there were words, we had many meaningful conversations and much joking around because we could and loved each other. The teasing, the humor and the times God led me to share a thought unexpectant of a response was a bond like no other. This was such a powerful place and God led us closer to His side.
I experienced God’s nearness in the assurance of what Steve and I both believed.
1 Jn 5:11-13 NIV
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
It was an incredible gift to experience the battle for life and to see how tenaciously we were created to live, through Steve’s life and battle. There is tremendous suffering and we wonder why. I think it could be because we have such a tenacity to live. There is this suffering part, and God uses it to help us let go, releasing the gift of tenacity to be able to walk into the presence of Jesus. Death is a testimony that has been sugar-coated. That need to say things about death that ignore or remove that amazing struggle and that beauty of releasing tenacity to walk into Jesus arms, has been replaced by thoughts that minimize the reality of death. As I have thought through this experience with Steve and even the many many deaths I have witnessed, that place Jesus was in the garden comes to mind. An agonizing place and state of mind, where He prayed for the cup of death to be removed and sweat great drops of blood. That agony He was in as He wrestled this painful process of immanent death. It was that human tenacity and will to live. It was not wrong, as Jesus was perfect, it was who we are made to be, that fight and desire to not leave anything undone or to get out of experiencing the pain, “is there another way,” as Jesus asked His Father. And that coming to the place where, even in death, it can be said, “Thy will be done,” as Jesus exemplified, that release and readiness to go home, that deep love of the Father so greatly outweighs the tenacity and there is release.
Wendy: How has this journey helped you face daily living and other hard places in your life?
I have a desire for others to hear His song. And understand that I know, “He is the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.” And that He delights in this. I want them to know that what I know is solid and has helped me reflect on the truth of what God says in His word and to my heart. All this was played out in my friend and brother’s life.
This journey has influenced how I see life. Is what I am going to boast about what God sees me doing. It has caused me to I ask myself if I am still carrying the sheep and is what grabs my heart what I know as truth.
Wendy: What are some blessings God has given you more recently, that you wouldn’t have noted as significant if you hadn’t known this special brother and walked through this time in your life?
The journey with Steve has allowed me to understand and sympathize with others in a very real way, to walk through the dying process with others with an empathic heart and be able to say to the loved ones who are facing the loss, “I get it.” Another blessing is to be able to talk about the depth of my relationship with Steve. I see how important those kind of relationships are in the body of Christ and want to express the value of this kind of brotherhood. I had a passionate shepherd experience that helped me understand the embrace of a Savior. And I have said before, this relating to the pain of Jesus in the garden and experiencing the depth of this love intensely impacted by the pain of loving someone so much and seeing someone face death, has been life changing.
Wendy: What piece of advice or bits of wisdom would you share with our readers from your journey thus far and in regards to walking beside your dear friend Steve?
My experience leading up to Steve’s death, taught me I didn’t have to fix anything. It was about just going and carrying the sheep through the process of death. I learned I could comfortably sit in silence, using words wasn’t necessary, because truly, sometimes the lambs just needed to be held. Knowing Steve and walking with him through cancer and his passing is an ongoing opportunity to praise the One who gave life and still gives it.
Pray…. and remember prayer is not always what you say or the formal sitting down and verbalizing to God our hearts. Sometimes it is the interaction with that person. We are His ambassadors, we represent Jesus, the gestures are sometimes the prayers. Often there is nothing we can do, but we can be brothers and sisters to those who need the embrace with skin on it, holding them as Jesus would.
It is not about what we feel… not about what you think… it is about what Jesus did. The world says, “do,” Jesus said, “done.”.
I would add, laugh and sing in the midst of it all, because the “joy of the Lord is your strength” and He sees you and knows you well.