Well, two final papers, one sermon, 1700 miles of driving, two nights in a HoJo's, nine interviews, and three finished chapters of a dissertation later, there appears to be a little light at the end of what was a dreary, long tunnel. I don't believe I've ever encountered a more demanding month than April in my life. Between all the assignments due, trips to Korea, California, Arizona, and Connecticut, a dissertation that never seemed quite right or finished, and just everyday life, it was a killer thirty-days. Now I've a couple days of respite before we start looking toward moving back to Lima, and actually working for a living again (as opposed to living on the Beeson Center dole to read books and travel around the world). I'm using this time to hang out with the boys and stay up late to watch the NBA playoffs, and Aimee, right now, today, is using this time to not be in the same place with the three boys she has largely been single parenting for the last month. She's taking a day to run some errands, get a new cell phone (hers is in pieces), eat food she doesn't have to share, and maybe get a massage. That's what she wanted: a whole day alone!
Her wish is my command.
Anyhow, the thing about the future is that it's always becoming the present, no matter whether you want it to, or not. So, here's what we're looking at as a schedule for the next month:
Friday, May 4th
We'll be in Lima to close on our new house. For those who haven't heard, we bought (well, the bank mostly bought actually) the Bishman's home (and former SUMC parsonage) on Sandy Lane. Joe and Marty made us a pretty good offer which we decided to accept. They've done a ton of work on the home, and given that I'm about as handy as a foot, the prospect of not having to do things like replace windows, a roof, furnaces, and the like, appealed greatly. Not mention, we think Sandy Lane is one of the best neighborhoods where you could raise boys, so we're looking forward to the move.
Saturday, May 5th
On this morning, my little brother will be graduating from the Law School at the University of Toledo. Our family, of course, wouldn't miss it. I don't know what kind of lawyer UT's school has made my brother, but it sure did teach him a whole new work ethic and sense of organization. Given that foundation, a budding love for the law, and his time clerking in the Lucas County Public Defender's office, I sense he's off to a great start on his career. Of course he's still got the Bar Exam to contend with, but about that, I worry not. My brother will ace that puppy. Now, hopefully, when he starts working for his father-in-law this year he'll be too busy to put together a decent NBA fantasy league team... and I'll steal next year's title. A guy can dream...
Sunday, May 6th
Shawnee's annual "Blessing of the Bikes" will be in full swing, and it should be a bittersweet kind of morning. It'll be sweet in that hundreds of bikes will in our parking lot, carrying with them dreams of the open road. It'll be a little sad, however, in that it'll be Joseph's good-bye to a community that didn't exist at our church before he arrived. I'll be there that day complete with a motorcycle endorsement on my license, and no motorcycle. I'd own one, but Aimee said something about us not having enough funds to buy both a house and a motorcycle right now, and she refused to live on a motorcycle... so there you go. Some people are just selfish. But I'll find a way to procure a permanent iron steed before the summer is out... I mean, they're always buying plasma!
Monday, May 7th
Say a little prayer at 9am on this day, as I'll be entering room BC-149 for my dissertation proposal hearing. This is the meeting which determines whether or not the study I want to do is a) worthy of academic study and b) well thought out enough to be of any value. I'm not worried about the worthiness of the study, as my bishop requested that I study this topic. That alone should settle the question as to whether or not it would be of any value in the church world. It's the "well thought out" part that's got me a little spooked. After initial negative feedback on my first try at my methodology (a fancy word meaning the systematic plan I have crafted to complete this study) on the part of my mentors, I basically re-wrote it in its entirety Sunday and Monday. Initial response on the part of those in the know has been positive, but we'll know more by Monday afternoon.
Wednesday, May 9th
My favorite post-punk art/math punk band, Ho-Ag, will be playing at Cafe MiAroma in Chattanooga, Tennessee for one night only! If you're wondering how many other post-punk bands I follow, the answer is zero. I just dig Ho-Ag because two of the current members, Matt Parish and Tyler Derryberry, are former youth group-ites from back in the day at Shawnee. These guys have always written weird, somewhat inaccessible music even back when they were in middle school. The cool think about them now is that they never compromised the type and kind of music they wanted to make, and slowly but surely their audience has come to them. Not mention the fact that I can remember the day neither one of them could play a guitar chord, and now they have become truly gifted musicians. Anyhow, much like dark coffee, I have acquired a taste for Ho-Ag, and look forward to hearing them again.
The other very cool part about this show is that Cafe MiAroma is located in the former Fellowship Hall of the First Christian Church of Chattanooga, which is pastored by good friend, Paul Rebelo. Gotta say that I, indirectly, was responsible for this serendipitous meeting of peoples, in that upon looking at Ho-Ag's tour schedule, I emailed various parties to let them know that a) there was a great venue that booked bands like Ho-Ag in Chattanooga and b) that Ho-Ag might be available for a show. Of course, I won't see dollar one for my efforts, but hopefully I can score a discount on a Ho-Ag T-Shirt and a free mocha at the coffee bar.
Anyhow, I haven't seen Pauly and his family since I preached his installation service two years ago. I look forward to see the Rebelo kids (my how I'm sure they've grown), his lovely wife Christine (who, after twelve years married to Pauly, qualifies for sainthood), and of course, one of the few people in this world who not only gets what I do for a living but has been there every step of the way since virtually the beginning of seminary. Paul and I talk at least once every, or every other, week, and have so since we graduated from seminary in 1995. We made the decision to do this after hearing Bishop Reuben Job suggesting that you should as a seminarian find someone, before you become a pastor, you can talk to that doesn't live in your community or go to your church, but still understands ministry. Since then, Pauly and I have walked through all the changes in our family (seven kids between the two of us), eight moves, one change of denominational affiliation, lots of hard times, and lots of laughs. I can't wait to see him, and though I say it every time, we gotta not let so much time go between visits in the future.
Pauly - Thaw out some Portuguese sausage and and dust off the Tecmo Bowl... I'll see you next week!
Sunday, May 13th
Joseph's last Sunday at Shawnee at the Big Kahuna. I'm sure we'll share lots of laughs and tears. Of course, we wont' say "good-bye", but rather, "see you later"... in this life, and in the next.
The cool thing about being a United Methodist pastor is that when you go through a change like this one, you know it won't be long until you see your friend again. Twice a year, at Annual Conference and at our annual Clergy Session, I'll be able to give Joe a hug, and see pictures of the grandkids. To some degree, since he's always been a mentor, he will continue to be, I'm sure, a source of encouragement and wisdom. In any extent, in a lot of ways, Joe has been ministry-wise like a dad (or maybe sometimes a crazy uncle) to me. And I'd be crazy to let that go.
Tuesday, May 15th
For all intensive purposes, the Beeson Pastoral experience ends with our end of year Banquet. In what will be another series of "see you laters" my eleven com padres will be going their separate ways, to live life once again in the grace of Jesus' ministry. Three of them will be moving to Houston, two to various parts of Alabama, one to Georgia, one to Oklahoma, two to Tennessee, one will stay here in Wilmore to work at the Beeson Center, and two of us will make the trek to Ohio. I'd like to say we'll all see one another again, together, in one place, in this life, but reality is that the chances of this are probably pretty long. Life gets busy. People get pulled into different directions. It just becomes more and more difficult to stay connected to people who, at one time, were folks you saw everyday. That's the nature of life.
But as for my eleven fellow BP's: Kent, Alicia, Matt, Aaron, Jason, Scott, Gordon, Travis, Jim, Trav, and Nolan... well, they'll never be far away from me. I count it as the greatest privilege to have been invited to make this journey them. And as much as I learned from Bono in Chicago, a bunch of charismatics on a warm fall day in London, a group of monks in Kentucky, some of the nation's most important pastors in Houston, a very wise bishop in Seoul, and a slew of professors and presenters (not the least being Father Cantalamessa, Richard Foster, Brian McLaren, Steve Chalke, Ben Witherington III, Jerry Walls, and in what was personally the most fascinating presentation of the year, Sandy Richter's take on the historicity of the Old Testament) in the Beeson Center.... all of that paled in comparison to what my friends have taught me. We have had a moment in time that can never be recaptured, and it's that the moment is partially mine that I celebrate now.
(Hey, those aren't tears... it's just a little dusty in here.)
Monday, May 21st
The Bucher's take possession of our new home. I'm guessing Joseph won't have kept up with the lawn work, so I'll be there, breaking out the lawn tractor and tearing out the walls in the basement (to convert it from three smallish bedrooms, to one large rec room). All this to prepare for our moving our stuff out of storage and into the house on Saturday, May 26th. If you're available to help us out that morning, lunch will be on us!
Friday, June 1st
School will be out, so we'll load up the U-Haul and leave Wilmore for good. Sad, and not sad, all at the same time.
Sunday, June 3rd
The culmination of the end of a long, long journey. Probably for five years now I've flirted with the idea of succession. Initially at Goshen First, my former Senior Pastor, Dick Lyndon, dreamed about us switching places - me becoming Senior Pastor and he becoming an associate. That way he could plant more "Life Centers" while golfing more, while I took on the weekly routine of preaching and leading. It was something he talked about quite often after the idea was suggested by Lyle Schaller, a church consultant we heard speak at a conference in Indianapolis. An unresponsive bishop, and (I'm guessing, for a variety of reasons) a more than divided congregation stood in the way of that dream, and when Dick died unexpectedly in early 2004, it all but died with him.
But, I'm not sure why.... maybe it came out of the conversations Joe and I had about what was going on at Goshen, or maybe it was the conversations Dick and Bishop Ough were having about better ways to appoint pastors at local churches, but the dream that began in northern Indiana found it's legs in Northwest Ohio. And while there have been many moments these past three years where I wondered if really, it would ever become reality..... the day is quickly approaching that this which I first discussed in a Texas Roadhouse in suburban Indy, will finally find its day.
Who knows, really, if it will end up working out for the best for the church, the conference, and our family. Those kinds of predictions are hard to make. All I know is that I've kept telling God that the whole crazy scheme was just too hard for me to pull off, and he said, "Good. That means you'll have to depend on me, every step of the way."
Gotta say... my life has been a whole lot better since I took that advice.
That being said, it's good to be back! If I can't get in another post before then, see you next Monday with next week's new "Ten Things I Think I Think". Until then, be good.