Sunday, August 02, 2009

10 years after

Not only were they a good band from the 60's and 70's (and did you know their name was associated with Elvis?), but yesterday I celebrated 10 years of being a pastor at my church. I started on August 1, 1999.

After getting a degree in pastoral something-or-other, I dinked around that summer of '99; got a call from several churches, but just didn't really feel right about any of them. I had this guy from Fort Wayne who kept calling me, and he finally talked me into coming and just filling their pulpit for a couple Sundays. I really hoped to return to Illinois, and had no real desire to go to a little country church at the time either, but... you know... after preaching there a couple times... I decided to give it a go. It seemed like a nice place, and nice people. I signed a 3-year contract, and honestly didn't think I would make it through that first one. But I hoped and prayed I wouldn't get fired before my kids had finished school (Isaac was starting 6th grade and Carrie 9th).

We moved into the parsonage on the hottest day of the year, and they were just installing air conditioning and it wasn't yet hooked up. We unloaded the Uhaul and headed to Fort Wayne to where we were supposed to drop it off, and the place was closed. Jane said the first cuss word I had heard her use in quite some time. :) So we drove around this city we had never been in before, aimlessly looking for anyplace that had Uhauls parked outside. We finally found a hardware store at Southgate Plaza. We were home, I guess.

I had already informed the church that I had an earring, I wore t-shirts and shorts almost all the time (in the summer anyway), and I would NEVER like Bobby Knight or IU. Yet they still hired me with a 100% congregational vote. I guess when you're desperate you'll do just about anything. They had been without a full-time pastor for almost a year.

To say it's been a wild ride would maybe be an understatement. I spoke with a friend of mine the other day - he has pastored his country church for what will be 40 years in September - and he always likes to say when asked how he has kept going all these years, "I just get up every morning, get dressed, and go to work." I have said that to myself many a time. The truth is, though, it takes a lot more than just getting dressed and going to work (and he knows it). And that's why I do think this is a milestone worth celebrating. It's not just about my ability to last this long, or that a church hasn't fired me yet. I believe this is a testament to God. My still being here shows he can do wonderful things through some very not-so-wonderful people (me); it shows he can speak grace and forgiveness into situations, and make peace, and bring restoration - many times over. I am happy to have forgotten a lot of things; and happy that my church has forgiven and forgotten a lot of things too. It takes nothing short of a few miracles from God to make something like this last this long (at least in my case).

I'm tempted to say that 10 years after being a pastor I am 10 times more depressed, 10 times more insecure, 10 times more lonely... and a lot of times I feel like that. But the truth is, I have learned much, and am still learning every day about how good God is. So whether it will be 10 more years, or 10 more minutes, it hasn't been for naught. God is surely a bit crazy, but he's pretty awesome too.

To celebrate, some people from my church decided to give me the day off today. I will still worship with them, but son Isaac came home to lead the music for us, and a good friend - and the former director of our denomination - came all the way from Eastern Pennsylvania to preach. After the worship gathering we're having a picnic in the pavillion. It should be a good day.

Of course the day started off with Jane and I having to take my dad to the emergency room at 5:30 this morning because he was having chest pains. He's ok now. It's always something.