27 June 2006

(Here is the note I sent to my friends and family at Ogden Church while wrapping up seven months of life and ministry alongside them) ...

Dear brothers and sisters,

This document comes to you with a mixture of gratitude, excitement, and sadness. Gratitude that God has given me the opportunity to graze in your pasture for a season, excitement about what God has in store for both of us down the road and around the corner, and sadness that this chapter of life and ministry partnership is coming to completion.

Sadness is an odd thing – three different kinds of sadness come to mind. First, I was sad when Teresa had to have our dog Sophie put to sleep a couple of months ago now. That sadness was about loss. Second, I’ve been sad about some of the choices my kids have made this past year. That sadness was about regret. But there’s a third kind of sadness … and this is the kind I've experienced before and that I’m experiencing now.

This this kind of sadness was the kind I knew after my seminary graduation was over, the lights had been turned off, and we all headed back home. I knew that a four-year adventure had come to an end – and yet I also knew that that was the plan from the day classes began. I knew some fantastic "with-God things" had happened – and that was the joy of it all. And yet I also knew that I’d never know these same people, in the same way again – and that was the genesis of the sadness I felt.

We’d graduated and it was time to move on. We had new God-given endeavors to set our hands and hearts toward. And this kind of sadness I felt that night in 1984 is the kind of sadness I feel right now, almost exactly twenty-two years later. It's a sadness that isn't about regret or loss ... it's about completion.

I knew when I came to dwell among you as your interim pastor-teacher that my time would be measured. But what I didn't know was that our time together would go by with the speed of dream. And yet through it all – through all the meetings, the planning, the studying, the teaching, the shepherding, the prayer, the counseling, the worshiping, the ministering, and the partying – I have been reborn. Not in the John 3:7 way. But more like the way Adam might have felt like in the Garden of Eden when God came near, leaned over him, placed His mouth onto His, and breathed life into him.

God has used you (both individually and collectively as the whole Ogden Church flock) to rebirth in me vision, passion, determination, joy, patience, and much more that I continue to discover. And for this I will be forever thankful.

In a different time and a different place perhaps our paths might have crossed more permanently. But because that was not God’s intention for now, the completion of our time together cannot be about loss. Instead, it must be about having the kind of faith that holds onto God with all we’ve got regardless of whether or not God’s plans for us have been clearly laid out for us, or are yet to be fully revealed. Like they say in AA, “Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.” And so you and I must continue trusting Him.

Know with confidence that I will always be God-thankful that He saw fit to hook us up and walk with us down this stretch of road. I couldn’t have asked for better leaders to dwell among and labor with, a better staff to have been yoked with, or a better church family to have ministered alongside.

God will lead you to His permanent choice for a pastor-teacher … and when He does you will dumbfounded at the perfection of His plans! Like the prophet Habakkuk wrote, “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days – You would not believe if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5).

Habakkuk’s name literally means “embrace”? And so with Habakkuk’s name and the power and truth of this verse firmly in mind …
  • I challenge you to invite the truth and the memory of what has happened in the past seven months embrace you and show you God’s provision for you … and
  • I challenge you to invite the truth and the joy of what is happening right now embrace you and show you God’s loyalty to you … and
  • I challenge you to invite the truth and the hope of what will happen in the months ahead embrace you and be God’s refreshment to you.
I love you. Godspeed.



18 June 2006

I am excited about being at 2nd Street for a number of reasons. Here's a list of the main ones that come to mind ...
  • Their “style” fits me and I fit them.
  • They’re laid back, real, grace-filled, have a commitment to the teaching of God’s WORD expositionally (verse-by-verse).
  • They want to reach whole families for Jesus Christ.
  • They have a vision for the disenfranchised, the beat up and the burned out.
  • They want to discover new ways to reach out and connect with GFU students (both undergraduate and graduate).
  • They have a heart for the poor and the oppressed (in Newberg, nationally and internationally).
  • They feel called to participate intentionally in recovery ministries.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

- T.S. Eliot

Being offered the chance to “arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” is an exciting scenario that most people don’t get the chance to experience. Two of Eliot’s phrases have shaped much of the way I’m feeling about coming back to Newberg ...
  1. to arrive where we started
  2. and know the place for the first time
I also dig the words "We shall not cease from exploration" ... but maybe more about those six words another time.

"Arriving where we started" can happen lots of ways … luck, compulsive-obsessive disorder, or even by getting lost. But even when it happens intentionally, it’s easily more about sentimentality and maintaining creature-comfort than destiny.

But being given the opportunity to "arrive where we started and know the place for the first time" … now that’s something that can fuel creativity and birth vision.

So why come back to Newberg and to 2nd Street Community Church?

Sometimes a person’s hearts get woven to a job
and sometimes their heart gets woven to a place. After spending fourteen years as the George Fox University campus pastor, I strongly sensed that leaving GFU didn’t mean I had to leave Newberg. I love Newberg. I have a desire to understand more and more about Newberg’s heartbeat – what makes it tick. What it values. Why people come here and stay here.

I'm praying that my last two weeks at Ogden Church are full of joy, excitement and enough fruit to fill up a basket. If God brings me to mind, please join me in this prayer. Good night and Godspeed.


Gregg Lamm

17 June 2006

Late Thursday night the clerk of the Elders at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, Oregon called to tell me know that the flock had unanimously approved the two recommendations passed onto them by their Pastoral Search Committee and Elders that I be called to be their lead pastor-teacher. I will begin Sunday the 16th of July.

Thanks for your prayers, support, and encouragement during the past fourteen months. My last Sunday at Ogden Church is the 2nd of July. Please keep this precious flock in your prayers as they continue the search for their new lead pastor-teacher. We are all in God's hands. I thought I knew this fourteen months ago. But my family and I seriously know it now. And man, this is so good to know.

And so now seems to be a good time to post my final journaled thoughts and words on HABAKKUK 2:1-4


1 What's God going to say to my questions? I'm braced for the worst. I'll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I'll wait to see what God says, how he'll answer my complaint. Full of Self, but Soul-Empty.
2 And then God answered: "Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run.
3 This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming. It aches for the coming - it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time.
4 "Look at that man, bloated by self-importance - full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive".


In v. 1 I hear God saying that He isn't afraid of my questions, but that in fact, He loves being in conversation with me. God wants to be my rock, my tower, my strong defense. But for this relationship to happen and grow, I have to move past "self" to the place where I recognize, admit and shout out to the highest heavens that "I am nothing without Him!"

In v. 2 I hear God saying several things:
  • In a monologue there's just one person talking, and in a dialogue there are two people talking.
  • God wants to be in a back-and-forth dialogue with me.
  • God doesn't mind me crying out to Him. But after the "crying out," I need to take a "time out" … sitting and waiting, with both patience and expectancy.
  • There are specific words and insights God wants to speak to me and into me in order to bring me to change, growth, and maturity – while at the same time knocking me off my ego pedestal and loving me into wholeness.
In v. 3 I hear God reminding me that He has a vision for my life, but that if I don't cultivate a life of intentional, consistent intimacy with Him, it won't be long before I'm out of step with Him – making assumptions about what His vision is and isn't.

God has no incentive to play games with us about His will. Discovering God's vision for my life isn't like being blindfolded and spun-around-dizzy, wildly swinging at the "God's Will PiƱata," hoping-against-hope that at least one blow hits the mother load and busts it open. If that's who God is and how He operates, then take me off the guest list.

Instead, receiving God's vision for my life is about God and I talking, God and I partnering, God and I trusting each another more and more, God and I walking together with great hope that when the time is right not only will the vision be unfolded, but that it will become the very thing I've been dreaming of and desiring.

In v. 4 I'm learning that I want to be God-loyal, not self-important. I want to be fully-alive, not soul-empty. God, teach me to be this kind of man, raised up and matured by Your WORD, not bloated by the sins of my flesh, the lies of my ego, or the illusions of "success" as defined by the world.

God, thank You for the new ways You've been teaching me through Your WORD. Habakkuk's name means "embrace" and I've really felt "embraced" by Your words in these four verses. In a lot of ways Habakkuk's words remind me of what Paul said in PHILIPPIANS 3:12

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Living life with a commitment to become loyal and steady … those are two adjectives I want to describe my life, my faith, and my decisions. Embrace me God. I long for Your embrace. Godspeed.



01 June 2006

Last night I contacted the clerk of Elders at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, OR and let him know that I was accepting the call to be their new lead pastor-teacher. I will teach there on Sunday 11 June.

Then the flock will make a decision about the Elder's recommendation at a called meeting for worship and business on Thursday evening, 15 June (this date is tentative until they nail down a couple other things). And if they approve this recommendation, the goal is that I would begin in the position on 15 July, 2006.

Here are more of my journaled thoughts about HABAKKUK 2:1-4, specifically on v. 3 ...


1 I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the LORD will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.
2 Then the LORD said to me, "Write my answer in large, clear letters on a tablet, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else.
3 "But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

4 "Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith."


My grandma-friend Sue Johnson used to love saying, "God is never wrong. God is never late. But God is very seldom early." Man, I can relate to that ... especially the third part of the equation. God basically tells us two things about His plans in the Bible. First, that "His will is unknowable, and impossible to chart out." And second, that "It's possible to seek out, find, and live into His will."

When we're in love with God, this two-sided conundrum doesn't dissuade us from embracing more and more of the mystery of God. But when we're disengaged from God, this seemingly unsolvable riddle drives us nuts because it will always be hard for us to get past the false-belief that by using this kind of two-sided-truth-coin, God isn't trying to get us to trust Him more intimately, but that rather, He's simply yanking our chain.

And yet, through the breath of the Holy Spirit and the pen of Habakkuk (his name is Hebrew for "embrace"), God encourages us to not give up hope that He's alive and well, even when the circumstances of our lives scream out otherwise.

If it's true that our "own life experiences" are the filter through which we read, understand and apply the WORD of God – integrating it into the day-to-day realities of our lives – then for me, Habakkuk's use of the words "slowly, steadily, patiently" and "will not be delayed" are adjectives that not only make sense, but that bring comfort to my frustration that God's timing doesn't always perfectly in sync with what I've wished for, hoped for, or even prayed for.

When I read the words "slowly, steadily, and patiently" I think of the Fable "The Tortoise And The Hare." And remember who won the race? Well if God's love is represented by the Hare (nearly always quick out of the blocks), then God's plans are represented by the Tortoise (persistent and plodding much of the time).

I guess if I had to choose, I'd rather have it this way than the other way around. Because in my book, "quick love and slow plans" will always be better than "slow love and quick plans." For in God's love I see His intent, and in God's plans I see His methods. And I'd much rather have God's intent informing and preceding His methods , than have God's methods informing and preceding His intent.

It's like God's at an AA group and He's telling us a truth about Himself that He knows we need to hear, no matter how hard it is for Him to explain it or how hard it is for us to really understand it. "Hi, my name is God" He says. "Hi, God" all those of at the meeting respond. "You are My people and I am your God" He continues. "My plans are Mine to make and yours to discover. My plans are based on My view of history and how you fit into it, and not on your often-times skewed perception of your 'wants and needs'."

God ends v. 3 by saying, "[My plan] will surely take place. It will not be delayed." We can't destroy God's plans anymore than we can destroy gravity or run away from our own lap. We can merely choose to participate in God's plans, or choose to turn away from God's plans.

Remember the old question, "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Of course it does. Sound is caused by events, not by whether or not an audience shows up. "If God has a plan and we choose to not grab onto it with all we've got, does God still have a plan?" Of course He does. God's plans are in play because He has designed them, not because we participate with Him in them.

But to know God, is to know that He is a God of engagement. He's constantly inviting us into conversation, into partnership, and into adventure. I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't get frustrated with God's timing "from time to time".

But deep down inside I believe that my life is in His hands. And I am choosing to trust His hands. And for me, right now, that's what my life of faith is about … it's about trusting God slowly, steadily, surely, and with great patience. And in doing so I find myself taking on more of the character of Jesus Christ and participating more fully in the will of God – learning to live a life of response back toward Him, that is based on the way He lives toward me. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

I'll let you know more once this boat is securely docked. Please remain in prayer for the precious flock and leadership team at Ogden Church. They have a pastoral candidate and his wife visiting tomorrow evening through Tuesday morning. He will be teaching this Sunday and meeting with a plethora of folks and committees between now and when he returns home. Please pray for peace, discernment, joy and courage ... both for them and for the sheep who make up the flock called Ogden Church. Godspeed.