Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Year In Review

I’ve always like December. I remember back to age 5 or 6 and watching Entertainment Tonight, or so some show like it, and being excited about the year-in-review type story they did. I found it fun to look back over the year and see if I remembered certain things, and that continued especially during the years that I was really into MTV and they would do the year’s top 100 video countdowns and such. Outside of a top-movies-of-the-year list I don’t necessarily look forward to December for entertainment remembrance, but I do like to take the time to look back over my life for the past twelve months this time of year.
2006 has been the toughest year of my adult life. While I certainly had an inkling that this year would be hard before it started, there was definitely a part of me that secretly thought that everything was going to be very easy and my new life changes and choices would be a huge success. But that’s not to say that any of this took me by surprise either. When I stepped out in faith, believing that God was calling me out of youth ministry mid-2006, I was ready to accept that things might not work out in a “happily ever after” fashion. That being said, I guess it wouldn’t necessarily be any easier to breath if I were told in advance that I was going to have the wind knocked out of me.
Even at this point my life is still very much up in the air, but I have a peace about the direction that I am now heading. With some direction, the assurance that I should be in pastoral ministry, I feel good about 2007 and what it will hold for my wife and I. I’m excited about being appointed somewhere and settling in for a good long tenure as a young pastor somewhere. I’m finally at that point in life where I feel like I have enough experience behind me to speak into other adult’s lives, but with so much still to learn and experience. It will be cool to learn in grow in the context of a community where my role is pastor.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Little Pieces of You

Lately I’ve been reconnecting with people that I haven’t had contact with in a while. Mostly through signing up on Myspace and reading what old friends are up to, some in random meetings. This reminds me of experiences and moments shared with these people; happenings that at one time were central to who I was at the time. And while much has happened since then this process of reflecting on the past has reminded me that I am a sum of my many experiences. Those experiences weren’t just events, but shared events that are a part of the people that I was with at the time. I think it’s cool to see how many of us who shared very similar lives at one time have gone in so many different directions. I certainly don’t claim to have played major roles in all of these people’s lives, and I don’t pretend to hold influence on where they are or who they’ve become now, but I do feel a connected in some way.
Our feelings of independence and self-reliance are largely lies. We are deeply formed by our experiences shared with other people. I so often forget this. I think it’s our selfishness that makes us what to believe that we make ourselves, that we can go it on our own.
It might have been a deep friendship that time has faded, maybe it was a passing comment remembered by no one that started us in a direction of thought that ended being essential to who we’ve become, it could even be someone that we deeply disagreed with or even disliked, but it was our interaction with that person that caused us to more passionately believe something. Regardless of the level of interaction, if we are honest we cannot disregard the impact that others have had on our lives. We are not alone, we do not exist as islands, we are not strangers passing blindly in the dark night. We are exactly that… “we.” Me is only an unique collection of the shared us. So to all those that have shared in making me who I am thankful (except for maybe all the crap that makes me a crazy jerk, but I’m not beyond taking responsibility for that).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Because of...

Grace. It is grace that comes into our brokenness and wraps around us like a healing balm. It softens the rough edges and creates a safe barrier between the sharp barbs of our souls and those that surround us. As I’ve struggled to find who I am and what God is calling me to during this time of transition, I have misheard his whisper, the one that gently guides us in the right direction. This has shattered my confidence, not in God’s ability to speak, but in my ability to hear. In the brokenness that results from this paralyzing fear there is love. That love is the grace that mends and brings wholeness where there is none on our part, where in our souls only emptiness is felt, yet grace makes us complete even as we lack. This grace does not always lead to the sensation of wholeness, but we are full nonetheless.
I don’t pretend to understand either the depth of my brokenness, or that of the grace that fills in the gaps. While the perspective that time and fuller views of the bigger picture will bring will help me to comprehend what has happened in this time of my life, and what it is that I need to take from it, I don’t think my understanding is the point. There are deep changes happening in me right now. Undercurrents that were so heavily defended or hidden, that only such raw disappointment and hurt were going to get through into the far reaches of my soul. It is these places that grace needed to find its way and yet, consciously or not, I would not permit it to be there. I do not claim that God caused certain situations in order that I might learn new lessons. However, I do know that grace will not pass up opportunities to more deeply move into the innermost areas of our being, and there are times that only in our being broken is grace able to penetrate to these depths. This is not because Jesus is not able to reach these places, when in fact he is already there. But Jesus will not force his influence where we do not allow for grace’s entry.
Behold, he stands at the door and knocks, and while we may call out with the invitation to enter we hardly mean it. Then something happens to rock our homes to the foundations, and the doors are thrown off their hinges and our muffled cries for Jesus to come in are met with his gentle touch of healing. The gentle touch that is… grace.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Back and Jacked

Okay, after a few very strange months I'm back. Let's just say the insurance sales thing door to door was not at all me, no big surprise there. But trying to make it work really threw me off my game for a while, something that I'm still working on. But after a few weeks of looking for work I am once again gainfully employed. The new position is a much better fit with my passions and personality. To avoid any legalities, we'll just say that I work for a large coffee retailer at one of their local stores, the one that happens to be done the street from my house. It is all the caffeine that has me jacked by the way.
No longer working for the church fulltime continues to be a huge adjustment, which was needed, and I am starting to see how this might pan out. I don't think that doing just the coffee thing is the best possible solution as far as finances and using all my gifts, so I'm contemplating what else I might do in addition and how that might play off each other. I think it would be awesome to be doing something else in the city as well. I love Rochester.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Life or Something Like It

It's been a really crazy last few weeks, and there isn't any significant let up in the near future. The nice thing is that I at least have some down time this afternoon and this evening, which is a change over recent weeks. I am no longer employed as a youth pastor and have been in licensing school to become an insurance agent in the state of New York. I can't believe that I'm actually excited to say that as of this morning I am now licensed to sell insurance in the state of New York. Now that I've got that done I get to do sales training for the next week and a half, but I don't start that until tomorrow.
While I'm in this process of training for this new career that has the potential for making a pretty good income I'm also reading this book about the "Simple Way" in Philly. It's a great perspective to keep in front of me while I'm here in Albany for three weeks.
I miss my wife. I miss my dog. I miss my house and my city. Can't wait to get back and figure out what life as an agent looks like for me.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Why do people like my name?"

I'm nearing the end of my journal and bought a new one tonight. I decided to go back and read some of the one that I'm about to finish. I started it in the fall of 2003 and it's really neat to see the beginning stages of how I got to this crazy place where I am about to leave full-time youth ministry to go and sell insurance. As interesting as that may or may not be, that really isn't what I want to post here. The follow is from my journal, dated October 23, 2003:

"As I sit here drinking coffee and reading Romans at the Wegman's Cafe, I can't help but do what I do so well. I over hear a conversation. It's between a mom and her son, and as they catch a late lunch I can tell this boy is wise beyond his five or six years. It doesn't take long to hear where his wisdom comes from. He asks his mom, "Why do people like my name? It's just Br-ian." This is what his mom said, "It's not the name they like, it's the boy named Brian. 'Cause he's smart, he's funny, and they like to be around him." The love of his mom will take him far in this life."

I have been thinking so much lately about why it is that God loves us. I know that he doesn't love us because of what we do or don't do, but what does that really mean. I think this mom has a sense of it. God loves us because of who we are. He is the parent that knows how immensely gifted we are. Like Brian, maybe it's our humor or intellect, or it could be any number of things. The point is God sure likes being around us because of who we are. It seems that it would serve us well to try and figure out what it is that God sees when he looks at us.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Packing Day Emotions

Today was a really rough day. I packed up my office at the church after almost six years as youth pastor. I’m on this crazy ride of trust that has been rolling since last summer when I knew God was leading me away from full-time youth ministry into something new. Some days have been harder than others, and today was definitely near the top of the list.
As I packed up my books it hit me that I won’t be going to that well of knowledge regularly like I have so often in the past. I love to teach and the act of searching the things of God and trying to put his truth into understandable bits that others might apply to their life is so exciting to me. And here I was packing up these tools. Sure, they’ll get unpacked at the new home sometime soon, but not for regular use. I felt like I was boxing up a part of me to store away for this season in my life. This sucks.
I’m excited to see where grace leads from here, and I know that I won’t be sitting on my knowledge and teaching ability forever, but this all hit me rather hard. It is so final, my walk as a youth minister is just about over. I wish I could say I leap into the next part of my journey with more enthusiasm, but I admit I have a hard time believing that this next step is one that I will be very comfortable with. But that’s part of what this current adventure is about for me. I have let my faith get too small, I have put God in this box that works very well for me and is very safe and comfortable as I work behind my desk at the church and hide behind the title of pastor. This new life out in the open without that protection is scary. But my trust should be in Jesus, not my job title.
All this is still growing on me and I’m sure I’ll have more days of back and forth on this all. But if it were up to me I would be calling churches in the area today begging them to hire an associate. I have been faithfully led this far and I cannot start doubting that God knows best know. What a lovely day to walk on water.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I have entered this new world.

Well, here I am in the blogosphere. I'm sure in time I will post very exciting, deeply intuitive, and provocative thoughts, but for tonight I will not. If your reading this I would love to know how/why you found me.
Because of Grace