1) I think, first and foremost, that it's kinda of amazing how you can look toward something happening in the future, or maybe multiple things happening the future, and then experiencing them happening..... all at once. Yesterday, standing in front of that long line of motorcycles, looking to my right, seeing Joseph standing in front of one cross blessing bikes, while I stood in front of another cross doing the same thing, it just kinda hit me that's all coming together. The job, the responsibility, what we are becoming as a family, the degree the future.... so many dreams are slowly becoming reality.
While I am approaching what is emerging, particularly the sense of what I'll now be responsible for, with some fear and trembling (although, a little fear can be a good thing), I have this sense that now, as far as the Kingdom of Heaven is concerned, this is my moment. The time God has said it's time to write my paragraph or two in the continuing story of the church. The infinitely short period in history where I'm supposed to help be a part of the Body of Christ's brain, and start whispering like Run DMC (or Aerosmith, if you prefer), "walk this way". This moment could have arrived anywhere, but whatever reason, call it fate or the fate I helped make cause I'm a homebody, or both, it's all coming together in Lima.
Shawnee UMC: The site of my "quan".
For those who don't know what "quan" is, well, you can be forgiven because it's not a real word. It's a word invented by Cameron Crowe when he wrote the movie, "Jerry Maguire". Quan is the culmination of all things you've been working towards for virtually all your life. It isn't just about money or work, but seeing what you tried to teach you kids lived out in their lives, moments in spiritual journeys that are realized, moments when you realize that vows made in a wedding service years have become manifested in your life. Societal respect (whatever form that looks like... people who are counter-cultural, for example, can wake up one day and realize that their's has been a life lived out on principles not established quo), spiritual maturity, material possessions, professional advancement... all of that and more, all rolled up into one.
That's what, I think, Crowe would define as "Quan".
How strange it is to wake up and realize that what you first set out to do, has been done. Not completely, but at least things are as done as they could be at that particular moment in time. It is terribly gratifying, and more than a little humbling.
That's where I'm at right now.
2) Just walked out of my dissertation proposal hearing, and contingent on making a few more small edits, my proposal was approved. Now I have two years to complete the research and dissertation. It was suggested that the material was informative enough that I should consider turning it into an article or two for the benefit of the church, which felt pretty good. Who prints that kind of article, I have no idea, but that folks could think that a few thoughts that I have on planned pastoral succession might be helpful to the greater church is a good indicator that what has been written was good, and will be useful. I'll get those edits done before we leave Wilmore the end of the month, and move on to completing the research.
3) We closed on our house Friday. Took one last walk-thru with Joseph to just get a sense of what work we'll want to do to the place upon taking possession. As far as any kind of maintenance, we'll have nothing for the foreseeable future to do. In the last three years, Joe put a new roof, new windows, new bathroom and kitchen fixtures, a/c and furnace, light fixtures, concrete work, landscaping, and much, much more into the place. We just want to knock out a couple of walls in the basement to put in a new rec room and maybe turn the kitchen/dining room area into one space (as the kitchen is tiny). Beyond that, we can't wait to start making Sandy Lane our family's home.
4) "The Official Brother of From Bryan's Office" graduated from law school Saturday, and the whole clan was there for the occasion. The boys were really well-behaved throughout the graduation ceremony because A) Max and Xavier were playing their Game Boys (with sound off) during its duration and B) Eli fell asleep. But, you know... after eight years as a parent with three kids, you take what you can get. Andy looked good in robe and mortar board. He only received a blank piece of paper (as did all the grads) because final grades still have not been tallied from the last semester.... but that's just a formality. The downside of law school graduation is that it provides little immediate relief from the grind of study, as now Andy must continue to log ridiculous hours in the law library getting ready for the Bar Exam. But at least no check will need to be written for tuition this summer and next fall... so I guess its gratifying in that sense. Anyhow, Andy will be in the throws of getting ready for the Bar until July, so "The Official Brother of From Bryan's Office" will still need my support, and occasional late-night phone calls about the NBA to keep his sane.
5) The eighth annual "Blessing of the Bikes" was held at Shawnee yesterday, and it was everything you'd expect it to be. Fun, crowded, and poignant. Among the regulars, there was a bit of a pall hanging over the day, as everyone realized that it was Joseph's last. Of course, this won't be case, really, as I expect to see Joe back in future "Blessings" in some form or capacity, but there was a palpable feeling that it was an end of an era. One of the pre-reqs for the job of Senior Pastor at Shawnee was that you not only needed to ride a motorcycle, but had to really enjoy it. It was never written or stated, but the "Blessing" has become so integral to the church's identity and it's reputation, that if you had half-a-brain you'd realize pretty quickly that you really didn't want to be the pastor who killed off this ministry. Fortunately, after a motorcycle class last year, the procurement of my license, and a summer riding Sue Dickerson's Honda Shadow (she's selling it, by the way... email me or call her if you're interested), I discovered that I enjoyed riding very much. So much so that very, very soon I'll be investing in my own ride (a 2001 Kawasaki Voyager XIII).
Note: Shawnee has be one of just a few churches in the country where you could legitimately write off buying a motorcycle as a business expense. How great is that?
Anyhow, while I'm still not all that experienced, and must listen to the howls of my parents who desperately want me to stay off two wheels and stay on four (because they love me), God has answered a prayer, I guess, in that I'll be able to relate to folks not just theoretically, but in actuality as I make treks of my own on the open road. One would think I would be too much of a wuss to actually enjoy being on the same road with eighteen-wheelers with nothing but my leather jacket and a pair of jeans between us, but I do.
So, the "Blessing", with the blessing of the senior pastor, continues...
6) Check out this good looking fellow:That man is Steve Wheeler, a friend from my college days. Steve and I met actually at freshman orientation. He was from San Jose, California, and didn't really know anybody (he came to Miami via the Navy ROTC program, which he ended up dropping out of, if I remember correctly, largely due to the math requirements.... social studies teachers generally aren't all that great at math) and I was from Ohio, and didn't know anybody (except for my roommate, Mike Cairns, who I had graduated with at Lima Senior). Low and behold, a couple of months later, Steve ended up living down the hall from me in 3-Central of Stanton Hall. He taught me how to drink coffee, and on the occasional holiday where he didn't have the funds to fly back to Northern California, he came home and celebrated with the Bucher family. Back in those days a good time was kicking back to watch Clint Eastwood in those Sergio Leone westerns, playing two-on-two football (The Toilet Bowl.... I think I'd die if I tried that now), or Steve waxing me at Frisbee Golf (he's from California... I think out there you aren't allowed to graduate from High School unless you can whip a frisbee two-hundred yards on a windy beach).
Years later, now Steve (who married his college sweetheart, Kristie - they now have three kids) is teaching middle School Social studies and English at Boca Christian School in Boca Raton, Florida (which is kinda scary, thinking that responsible adults would turn their kids over to him to be educated, but probably no more scary than rational adults coming to a church where I'm the senior pastor... so there you go). He also coaches their high school cross country teams, and imagine my surprise when I discovered, via their school website, that Steve's girl's team went to state, and there's a little multi-media video presentation. To see it click here.
Two favorite moments of the video: Steve stating that he loved as a cross country coach, turn kids from "slugs into studs", and him telling us that on the team's motto on their shirt this year is "Die Now... Cry Later" (I'm guessing the same guy who as a college student used to love our Cold War profs anti-communist rants and liked to play a game called "beefball" because it essentially consisted of two guys beating the crap out of one another, was the one who came up with that motto). Seeing him brought back lots of great memories, and plenty of laughs.
Ah, the internet..... will the new uses ever end?
Anyhow, I sent Steve an email via his campus email system. Haven't talked to him in years, and hope to catch up soon.
7) My pick to win the NBA Championship now that the First Round is complete? Well, the chic pick now that Dallas was thoroughly outplayed by Golden State is San Antonio. The experts all think the (L)Eastern Conference has no shot at all, although Detroit is looking pretty good and any team with a star that will get star treatment by the refs in the playoffs (i.e. Cleveland) always has a shot (like Miami last year, when fouls were called on defensive players that breathed wrong on Duane Wade). But, Cleveland doesn't have the necessary horses (the Larry Hughes and Damon Jones signings just haven't panned out), Detroit can't stop big men on the blocks without Big Ben (who is a Bull now), and Phoenix, while I love watching them play, can't play in a half-court game and win the game. I'm intrigued with Utah (if AK-47 keeps getting his act together, but, I'm going out on a limb here and I've decided to back Golden State as far as they can go. Why? Well, they're peaking at the right time, the team is fearless (kind of like that team at your local YMCA who almost never sits down because the guys on it are just meaner and more competitive than anyone else), and they've got one of the three craziest guys in the league in Stephen Jackson so there's always a chance he'll break the leg of his opponent's best player while taking the chunk out of the ear of their second-best player. Gotta love the NBA... it's FAAAANNNNNN-TASTIC!
8) Bad thing about thinking ten things is that sometimes you can't really think of more than seven.
9) Been listening to Avril Lavigne's new album on my Yahoo Music Jukebox. I don't want to call the lyrics "dumb" and describe the music as "21st Century bubblegum", but if the shoe fits... makes me glad I grew up in the eighties when we listened to intelligent, well-composed songs like "I Wear My Sunglasses At Night", "Nothin But A Good Time", and (a personal favorite) "Da Da Da", which was made famous by this commercial for the VW Golf:
It just goes to show that as far as pop culture goes, brainless music targeted at teenagers will probably always be made, and while the subject of the lyrics might be a little bluer at some times than others, or the looks of the artist are far more captivating than their musical ability, kids will always be willing pony up some cash for their piece pre-packaged angst and rebellion.
10) And finally, one last trip to Shawnee as an associate pastor this Sunday, as we celebrate Joseph's last service as the Grand Pubah. Considering that the year before he arrived, the church wrote fourteen letters asking for money, and still couldn't pay their apportionments or thought they could keep their associate pastor (the great Barry Burns), the turnaround he's done at the place over the last seventeen years has been remarkable. Considering if the church hadn't gone out on a limb and hired a young punk youth director with $4000 it didn't have, I'd probably be talking about by law practice right now instead of ministry stuff.
So Kudos to you, sir, as you kicked upstairs by the Bishop himself to become a District Superintendent, working out of Chilicothe Ohio. Godspeed to both he and Marty as they continue to be used by God in the emergence of his Kingdom. Join us for our only service this Sunday morning at 10:30am as we send him off, if not in style, with love and affection.