It is great to finally have a chance to catch up with you and also fill you in a bit on our life. Before I do that, I should start with an apology. I had hoped to get an initial email out to you shortly after I stepped down from EHCC but I just didn’t get around to it. So this is overdue.
I will try to do keep this update reasonably brief and will answer the kinds of questions people ask me as I run into them around town.
Question One: How are you doing? Answer: I am doing well. I feel really good physically, mentally and emotionally. I have had a chance to get good and rested and also enjoy extra time with my family (more on them in a bit). I am sleeping really well for the first time in my life. My depression symptoms are pretty much all gone. I am grateful for all of that.
I haven’t really missed the day in and day out reality of ministry but I have missed the people I and my family are used to being around. That has been one of the hardest things for us. Lots of people change jobs but what is unique about ministry is that for me to step away from my role also meant that, at least for a season, we needed to step away from the church to give the church and the next Senior Pastor the space needed to move forward. So I think we are all going through some normal grieving around that. That is normal and expected but also hard. For us as a family, a huge part of what has defined our life is simply not there in the same way. So, say a prayer for us on that.
Question Two: What have you been doing? Answer: Trying to both rest and simply enjoy my family and take some extra time to think, pray and read. The first couple of months I found myself talking with people about several job opportunities but discovered that my mind and heart were not yet clear enough for that so I either said no or withdrew from everything I was looking at. Then, with the encouragement of Diane, I took a couple of months to just have a sabbatical and/or act retired.
So, from early September to the middle of November I just didn’t really think about what I wanted to do next. I traveled a fair bit, much of it by myself. I drove out to the West Coast and spent time in California and Oregon. Diane and I flew up to Spokane to move Jeff and Darrah and their kids down to Denver. I drove to Mexico and spent a couple of weeks sitting on the beach. That was fun! Adding to the excitement, I blew the engine on my little Suzuki on the way back, coming up the hill from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Diane and I went to Canada for a long weekend to celebrate some anniversaries and also to be together for what would have been her Dad’s birthday. As you may recall, he died late last year.
It has just been in the last month that we have started thinking more seriously about what the next chapter looks like. I will fill you in on that in a bit. About the only thing I have been doing to produce anything during the last several months has been to start on a couple of books that I have felt nudged to write.
Question Three: How is your family? Answer: We are all doing well. As I mentioned, Jeff and Darrah moved down here in September with Marion and Alden. Darrah was over 8 months pregnant when they moved here. So, since arriving she has delivered a beautiful baby girl, Marjorie Ruth. Jeff took a job at the Denver Street School, a small Christian School for at-risk kids who have struggled to get through traditional school. The school is just off of East Colfax in Aurora so you can guess that comes with all kinds of challenges (more on East Colfax in a bit).
Here is where it gets even more fun. Until they find a house, they have moved in with us. What that means is that every member of our family is under our roof right now. 5 daughters, 1 son-in-law, 2 grand-daughters and 1 grand-son. Plus our dog! It is very busy, but we are loving it, knowing that our house will get emptier quickly. I am loving the time to be grampa (they call me Abba) to my grandkids.
Everyone is doing well. A couple of the girls (Shea and Daviah) are in serious relationships that we expect will lead to weddings in the future. Spenser stays very busy with work as a manager at Chipotle and a range of volunteer ministry activities. Shadia is still working on home-schooling and a range of other activities. Everyone is busy with work and volunteering and relationships but doing well. Diane somehow helps us all keep the spin of life together even while she invests in a lot of other relationships.
Speaking of Diane and those relationships, she has become good friends with a Nepali lady named Sabitra as well as her extended family. They are Hindu but just this week, after 3 years of friendship, Diane led Sabitra in a prayer in which she committed her life to Jesus. We are delighting in that!
Question Four: What are your plans for what you will do next? Answer: Great question! We are working on that and beginning to make some progress. I will try to give you the short form and then maybe after the first of the year give you a bit fuller description. While I talk about being retired right now, I know that will only last for a season. I can’t afford to be permanently retired and there is way too much to do!
We have looked at a few things: Starting a business with some friends, a position with the denomination and a couple of seminary positions. But to this point, for one reason or another, it hasn’t seemed that God is steering us in those directions. Nor do we think that our next step is for me to go back to pastoring a church. We are open to moving from here, but we don’t want to for a wide range of reasons (family being primary), nor do we sense God calling us to that at the moment.
What we do have is a tentative direction that we are hoping to investigate over the next 6-12 months to see if it is in fact what God has for us. It would consist of me having two major pieces to my ministry life. Here is a snapshot of each.
Part One: Investigating what it might mean to develop some form of ministry along East Colfax Avenue in Aurora.
As many of you know, both Diane and I have long had a heart for ministry in the inner-city. And, in particular, we have been drawn to East Colfax Avenue. That whole area of North Aurora has a wide range of challenges and needs. In the middle of the poverty and gangs and wide range of spiritual, emotional and relational needs, it is a community that is also being impacted by the massive hospital construction right at 225 and Colfax.
Diane and I feel a tug to at least investigate whether the next chapter of our life might include prayerfully figuring out how we might help make a difference for Jesus there. I don’t think it would be likely that we would start a church there (I’m not sure they need a 58 year old white guy doing that), but we are very open to whatever God might lead us to. So here is the plan: After the first of the year I will start spending a couple of days a week up there, trying to understand what is currently going on there, what the community is like and how we might best serve. We will be, in many ways, functioning like missionaries to the community.
We would love your prayers for us as we begin that. Also, if that is what God is calling us to, we recognize that we will need to begin the challenging process of raising money to make it happen. We will keep you posted on things as they develop.
Part Two: Starting my own coaching, counseling, speaking and writing ministry. As most of you know, I have a heart for working with other leaders, with men and with couples and, frankly, with anyone wanting to get healthier and to the place where they can become what Jesus wants them to become. And, I continue to have a desire to speak and write, using the things I have learned over the years to make an impact for the kingdom. So my plan is to begin the process of setting up my own ministry that will be an umbrella for me to do those things. Our hope is that this could also provide some of the financial base for what God might lead us to on Colfax.
So, prayers for that side of things would also be welcome. I will keep you posted as that part of my life develops.
Our goal in the next 6-12 months is this: We want to see if some combination of these two pathways is what God has for us for the next 6-10 years of our life. Pray with us that if that is what God has for us, He would make the way clear, including creating a way to make all this work financially.
This has been too long! But I send it with our love and gratitude to all of you.