As I sit here wondering how in the world Cincinnati got into a BCS Bowl when they can't even sellout Nippert Stadium, here are the most memorable moments I had last year.
1) The birth of our fourth son, Tobias Gabriel. Can't say we really planned on ever having four kids, but we thank God for them all. Toby is the smiley happy baby Aimee has always wanted, and given our age we are both thankful for his good disposition. In the last couple of days he's taken his first steps, so time really does fly.
2) The, um, little procedure I had done to make sure we stick with four kids. Thank heavens for frozen peas.
3) Talking on the phone with one of Barak Obama's campaign managers. As I blogged earlier this year, we were in the running to be the church the Obama family worshiped at on Labor Day weekend. They ended up at St. Luke Lutheran, but the experience threw us all for a loop and turned what was normally a quiet weekend into chaos. You should have heard the sermon I wrote for the occasion. I mean how many times would you ever get the chance to preach to a future President of the United States. It would have been a good one.
(Although, I am convinced Jenny Neidich will be a future President, and I preach to her almost weekly, so maybe I've already had my moment in the sun. Just remember Neidich, no calling Rick Warren when you need a pastor to do an invocation at your inaugeration... and no calling Bishman either. Think of the glare of the sun off his head... it would blind your future cabinet.)
4) Anything political I was involved with this year was both a new experience and a ton of fun. I did a lot of grunt work for Glenn Derryberry's campaign for judge, doing everything from walking in parades, to slapping backs and pressing flesh at the Allen Country, and even knocking on doors handing out literature. I was very rewarding when he won (in a landslide).
I also was one of eight co-sponsors of a quasi-debate between the candidates for Allen County Sheriff. I say "quasi" because one of the candidates (the eventual loser) refused to directly debate the other candidate for reasons that ultimately weren't considered all that valid by the voters. Don't be surprised to see my name connected with another debate later in the year when the "no-holds-barred-steel-cage-grudge-match" that will be Lima's Mayoral election takes place later this year.
5) I'm proud of all the new friendships I made this year with pastors throughout the area. It was good to listen to Frank Taylor and Fayne Wise talk about their congregations, past and present. It was good to spend time with Lars Olsen, Dave Harris, and John Heyward. I treasure the friendship that Daniel Hughes and I have built over the last ten months. It's been an honor to work with Steve Blum and LaMont Monford. This city has a lot of great pastors, and its been good to get to know them.
6) Maybe the thing I'm most proud of in the past year was being a point person to help The Future Church move into old Grace UMC building. I can't say the experience itself was all that great. It was a bit like trying to eat a tough 96 ounce steak without teeth. But it was all worth it to sit in the congregation on the evening of the consecration service and see TFC's praise team rap a pseudo-rendition of "Amazing Grace". They're a young congregation with big dreams. It was good to help move those dreams a little closer to reality.
What's more, while I'm disappointed that the District Trustees didn't opt to just give the church the building, I am convinced that we, as United Methodists, have a chance now to impact the south end of Lima in ways we have not been able, or willing, to engage. While the West Ohio Conference has focused ample efforts in terms of urban ministry in our bigger cities, Lima has always been overlooked and neglected in terms of deploying the necessary resources or leadership to reach folks in the inner city. As our influence in Lima has slowly diminished, we have the chance in partnership together as Lima-area UM churches, and ecumenically with other partner congregations, start engaging the local population in ways that were necessary 30 or 40 years ago. We have a great new chance to do something good for this community. Let's not blow it.
7) I was given the gift of getting to travel around the country interviewing people for my on-going dissertation research. I got to meet UM-preaching legend Zan Holmes, Gene Getz (founder of the Fellowship Bible Church movement), and a lady whose son-in-law is Alan Bristow, a former head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. But the height of my experience was an unexpected 90 minute interview with Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the Florida Annual Conference.
In what was by far a much more frank and honest interview than I could have ever expected, I heard a UM bishop describe a future for our denomination that I could believe in. A future that is much less bueracratic and more local church oriented. A future where pastoral training takes place more in a local church setting and less in an ivory tower seminary. The question, of course, is whether or not as a denomination we will choose this future pro-actively, or because finances force us to go in a different direction. Hopefully Bishop Whitaker will write a book, engage the other bishops in much needed dialog, and help move us forward as a Christian movement.
8) Any moment with friends in 2008 was a good one. Whether it was time with Kent Reynolds and Chris Heckaman on a pastoral retreat in August, lunch with Roger Rhodes, or blessing bikes with Larry Inskeep, the year was filled with great moments and great memories. Nothing though, quite topped a long weekend spent with Eric the Buckeye, Dr. Mango, and The First Husband in Southern California, where we saw the Buckeyes get pounded by USC. Outside of the game, it was a great time where a pastor hung out with three doctors, shopping for pens (doctors, for those who didn't know, spend a lot of time shopping for expensive pens, and know quite a bit about them, which, by the way, seems at odds with the fact that you can't read a word they write), eating good food, and playing a lot of euchre. A good time was had by all.
9) We did a lot of cool things as a family this past year, but as in the previous summer, our highlight was a week-long vacation at Eric the Buckeye and Vanessa the Raider's lakehouse. Lots of swimming, boating, jet-skiing, eating, and movie watching commenced. Even a $100 ticket from the local county sheriff for pulling my kids around on an intertube with out a spotter on the back of the jet ski (should have read those Michigan water laws a little more closely). This led to my going to the Branch County Courthouse, and one of my favorite paragraphs I wrote this year on this blog:
My misadventure Sunday afternoon with a very nice deputy (who is a High School teacher the other nine months of the year he isn't educating dumb tourists via tickets about Michigan's boating laws) though led me to an unexpected encounter the next day at the Branch County Courthouse. While I waited at the window for the clerk to process my fine, I saw a woman with an honest-to-goodness coffee-can-lid-sized pentagram tattoo on the side of her neck. It was unbelievable. My father-in-law once told me that you should never get a tattoo in a place that can't be hidden from a judge. Let's just say that this lady needed one serious turtleneck to make that happen. I overheard enough her discussion with her lawyer(?) to realize that she was well acquainted with the folks at the Branch County Courthouse. On my way out, I told her how striking her tattoo was. Her response...
"It gives me (how can I make this up) all the power of the underworld, which is why I will prevail here today."
Ummmm... right. The look on her lawyer's face as she said this was a cross between "I wish I had gotten that I.T. degree" and "I think somebody ate my cat". And who knows, by the looks of things, maybe somebody had.
I called Brother Esq to tell him about it later. His response... "I'm a lawyer who does defense work. I see that stuff every day. You gotta get out of that church of yours a little more."
Not worth the entire cost of the fine.... but close.
10) Aimee and I celebrated our 18th Anniversary in August. And for all those who were worried, this Christmas I did a little better than spackling in her stocking. Let's just say my beloved is well-pleased.
For those new to the blog, here are ten posts from the archives I think you'll enjoy:
1) Top Ten names I wanted for Toby that Aimee would never allow.
2) My inability to simply pick up someone from the airport without scaring my grandmother to death.
3) The best advice I could muster for future Asbury Seminary Beeson Fellowship candidates.
4) Me walking in my wife's bible study in my underwear.
5) Some poetry I wrote after taking a late night walk with my sons.
6) This is the most viewed set of posts I've ever written. They are are about my experience at Holy Trinity - Brompton, one of the most influential churches in the world. The posts were discovered by an attendee at the church who linked it on his blog, which was then read by thousands of Londoners. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.
7) This is the first of a four part series I wrote while spending a week with post-modern Christian thinker Brian McLaren and noted British pastor Steve Chalke. This was probably the highlight (besides going to London) of my Beeson experience.
8) Here's a post where I give the Jonas Brothers a hard time for butchering a classic 80's song.
9) Here's a post detailing a conversation I had with friend and local pastor, Bubba Rummel, regarding Jeremiah Wright.
10) A very early post I wrote after watching two hours of MTV one late evening.
Happy New Year!