I came to SE Michigan on the 5th of December ... and really, the month of December is kind of a blur to me. Everything new, each experience navigated through exploration, and filled with joy. Friendships and teamwork built, along with trust. The outline of the story written each day. When I traveled home to be with Teresa and our sons for Christmas, it was so good to be with them. And yet the day-to-day life of the flock at Ogden Church was on my mind and in my heart in ways big and small.
As New Years and the day of my departure eastward approached, it was difficult -- but it was also a delight. I didn't want to worry my family or make them doubt my calling to serve God at Ogden Church ... and yet, without talking much about it, each of them sensed the tension between my desire to stay and my joy to go.
And in the end, the encouragement to gave me to keep following God's will for my life (even if the cost directly affected them) gave me the courage I needed to return to Michigan. Not that I wouldn't have gone back. I mean, I'm loyal. But the fear and the anxiety was gone. God took it away. And He used my family to deliver this gift of peace.
And what has January held for me?
The month of January has been much different than December, both situationally and emotionally.
Situationally our associate pastor, Jeremy Pietrocini is no longer just "going" -- he's "gone" ... moved with his family to Cleveland to work for the Gallup Organization and help several old friends begin a new church.
Situationally the Pastoral Search Committee's work has become more real, and the Truth that God had called me here for a "season" and not for "the long haul" has moved from the back of my mind to the front.
Emotionally, I'm feeling strong, loved, challenged, focused, invested, busy, accepted and serene.
And the joy remains. Has it been hard to adjust to living alone in my little house? Sure. I haven't lived on my own since I was in seminary, 25 years ago. Am I adjusting? Yes. I've bought an exercise bike and am riding 5-8 miles a day on it. I'm reading books I've put off reading for too long. I'm playing Scrabble with Teresa via the Internet on a regular basis. And I''m assessing the condition of my soul, asking God questions like ...
- Why in the world did You bring me to Michigan? Show me more.
- What are the lessons You want me to learn here? Teach me more.
- How are my life experiences, my strengths, my weaknesses, my spiritual gifts and my personality what Ogden Church needs during this time in their life's story? Equip me to be who and what You and Ogden Church most needs between now and when their new lead pastor-teacher begins.
- How can I become a better steward of my body -- treating it more like God's temple and less like a landfill?
Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline writes in the chapter on solitude, "loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment, [and it] is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place."
All this to say ... I'm glad I'm here with you. As I've said before, I'm thankful for the trust the leadership at Ogden Church has placed in me. I am feeling led by Christ as I study and teach God's WORD.
I am feeling led by Christ as I go to work each day and interact in person, by phone and through email with Ogden folks. And I look forward to the days, weeks and months to come -- new chapters of life and ministry to yet be discovered and walked through. Good night. Godspeed.