1) Aaron Wymer is putting on the screws. The Gator grad has suggested, as a response to my willingness to wear blue and orange on January 9th if the Bucks lost in the BCS Championship, that a better wager would be the loser wearing the colors of his team's arch-rival. Thus, if Florida loses, then Aaron wears a Florida State shirt, and if OSU loses I'd have to put on the dreaded maize and blue.
You're on Aaron Wymer, oh evil genius!
2) Note to everyone at Shawnee UMC... I can promise that we'll never try to shoehorn in an 11am service crowd in the Sanctuary again. I mean 9am was packed... 11am was just ridiculous. Let me say this, if you had told me 15 years ago that our Sanctuary wouldn't be big enough to host the congregation on the Sunday after Christmas, I'd have laughed heartily. I'm not laughing anymore. We really are growing.
3) A week or so ago, me and my big mouth, or I guess fingers, in response to the news that Grace UMC had extended an invitation to merge with Trinity UMC, wondered aloud about the future of Methodism in our nation's urban core. Sunday morning I had an extended conversation with a respected member of our church community who wondered too about the future of Grace, and the future of Methodism in urban communities. Particularly after watching "The Pursuit of Happyness" with Aimee (on a rare date) last week, and seeing what Glide Memorial UMC means to urban San Francisco, I can't get this out of my head... and I wonder what the Holy Spirit might be saying to me right now, as I think about future of Shawnee.
Why can't a suburban church partner with an urban one to do something new?
4) Spent last night eating Hickory Farms with Aimee watching "Uncle Buck" (a gift from her to me this Christmas). What an enjoyable evening!!! I love spending New Years at home with my wife and family... especially if the younger members of said family are asleep by 9pm. And I've seen Uncle Buck so many times that I start laughing before the funny parts (which are numerous) of the movie (which Aimee loves... I do the same thing with "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"). I can't think of a better way to close out 2006... Aimee and I together, watching a movie, with our boys safe and sound asleep, all snug in their beds.
As an aside, I miss you John Candy. You make me laugh.
5) Is it true? Will I actually spend all New Years Day reading and writing instead of watching football? Afraid so. Such is the academic weight of the coming days.
6) Here are some my personal highlights of 2006
a. Coaching Max's basketball team, which culminated in him and I taking in a Cavs game last spring. I can't believe how fast my oldest son is growing up, and what a great person he is becoming.
b. Grocery shopping with Xavier on Fridays. Another amazing boy growing up right before my eyes. The child who never said a word until he was two, now non-stop talks, making up stories, singing songs, and telling jokes (mostly about poop). Nobody can get us laughing harder.
c. Eli deciding that Daddy, while not as indispensable as Mommy, was still pretty important.
d. Our epic family journey this past fall which found us in five different towns (Indy, Chicago, Goshen, Lima, Wilmore) in five different days. We swam and ate pizza in Indy (the boys still thing the Hampton Inn we stayed at was the fanciest place they've been in their lives), maxed out freebie visits to museums in Chicago (while yours truly got to officiate one of the funnest wedding ceremonies of his life.. congrats again CJ and Jill!), hung out with the Walters, rode all the rides at Shawnee's Fall Fest (I engineered the train again, making me a local celebrity with kindergartners), and collapsed back in Wilmore. An unbelievably fun weekend.
e. Being named the successor pastor to Joseph at Shawnee. I remember always saying, given how charismatic he is and the job he did at this church, "God bless the sucker who follows Joe Bishman at Shawnee." Who'd have thunk I would be the sucker?
f. I can't say upon arriving that I really wanted to be on Asbury's campus when I arrived in July. I've never been one who wanted to put his life "on hold", which is what withdrawing a year from the local church seemed like for me. But professionally, doing Beeson is turning out to be one of the most important things I've ever done. I can't explain how it's changing me, but it is. And besides, I'm so honored to be in the same class with Scott, Gordon, Alicia, Trav, Kent, Travis, Jason, Matt, Jim, Aaron, and Nolan I can't put into words. What a blessing!!!
g. I haven't absorbed more in a shorter period of time probably since I was a little boy, than I did while walking the streets of London. Experiencing the End of Christendom, exposure to a new kind of charismatic ministry, worshipping with hundreds of ex-pat Africans who being led in worship by a Swedish gospel choir, sitting where C.S. Lewis sat, standing where John Wesley stood, spending a day on the Tubes alone, recognizing the effect of post-modernism while being wowed during "Wicked", and the dozens of emails I've received from London since I shared my experience at Holy Trinity- Brompton made this such a great, great experience. I just can't tell you.
h. Getting my motorcycle license. I don't know how I'll be able to buy a bike without bankrupting us, but I will... somehow. Thank you Sue Dickerson for letting me practice on your ride.
i. Every moment I spent watching the OSU-Michigan game with my folks, my brother and his lovely wife, and the boys. Am learning how these moments become more fleeting over time.
j. Christmas Eve Eve with my in-laws. I'm not blowing smoke here.... it was my favorite Christmas memory this year.
7) Least favorite memories of 2006
a. My mother-in-law being diagnosed with liver cancer. Please keep praying for her as she fights this disease.
b. Reading and writing. Lots of it. Loads of it. More than I'll do the rest of my life.
c. All the people we're missing by not living in Lima the last six months. Our family, our friends, and particularly Sunday nights with the Great One in the nest. I can't get those missed moments back.
d. Every moment I took my wife for granted. She's a Hall-of-Fame Mom, and the best partner a person could ever have. Sometimes living with me just isn't very fun.
e. Any days the boys were sick.... especially with the stomach flu.
f. Leaving our home on Oak Terrace. No more playhouse. No more 100" screen theatre. No more great neighbors. No more cul-de-sac where the boys could ride their bikes without worry. No more 20+ shady trees. Probably our peak as far as houses go. Thanks Rob for letting us live there!
8) Talked to my buddy Pauly last night while on the road from Lima to Wilmore. Sounds to me like he's hitting his stride as a pastor at FCC of Chattanooga. The full-service coffeehouse is up and running, and is being used by countless groups (most amazingly, the NAACP on UT-Chattanooga's campus). The church is partnering with a local charter school that serves impoverished families and looking to do the same with the local homeless coalition. A new contemporary service is starting this spring. Worship attendance is growing. And most importantly, as far as I'm concerned, my buddy has found his calling. It's like I told his people the Sunday he was installed as a pastor... ministry is slow death. A dying to what we have been, which is painful. But you can't beat the resurrection on the other side. Great job, Pauly at leading a downtown mainline church that is finding new life and purpose.
9) Listened to the Bengals collapse last night on the radio. Talk about a modern-day parable... what team had higher expectations and more talent that the Bengals this year? Nine guys getting arrested for a multitude of stupid reasons just took the wind out of their sails. But hey... would have ever thought at any time in the 1990's that the Bengals would go 8-8 in a season, and that it would be disappointing? I get the feeling that this was one of those "one step back" years, where one more important lesson had to be learned before the team could make the leap to "perennial winner". In this case the lesson was "character counts" (a lesson the guys who ran the Portland Jailblaizers could have explained well). Here's hoping the offseason will reflect the team having learned the lesson.
10) Don't look for any posts until later in the week when our BP class hangs out in Houston (we fly out in a couple of days). And even then, I don't know if the family I'll be staying with (no hotels this time... instead we'll be with families from Clearlake UMC) will have wireless Internet. But you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be blogging about the experience... especially since someone decided we'd benefit from a visit to Joel Osteen's church. I'm not sure what we're supposed to learn from a guy who tells people that God will give them everything they want in this life if only they believe... but I'm sure I'll learn something!
Until then, hope you have a great New Year!