Wednesday, September 23, 2009
a couple of days ago, the bridge website finally went away. i knew that the closure was in the works, but it still caught me off-guard. i didn't realize it had happened until someone told me that their e-mail to me had bounced. much like the church it publicized, it was there seemingly functioning one day, then gone the next.
looking back over my recent blog posts, i was reminded that i haven't written much in this space about what i've been thinking in the wake of the closure of the bridge. i've covered a wide range of subjects -- race relations in america (yes, imo, christians need to be actively involved in that discussion), family celebrations, a speech i gave at toastmasters... i even took a stab at political satire (on health care and the ever-increasing breadth and power of the federal government). but i really haven't said much about what my family calls 'the collapse' of the bridge.
there were all kinds of reasons for this. first of all, it involved others, and i didn't want to say too much about them. my sense, both then and now, is that it's better to address my part in things and let others deal with their own issues before God. moreover, it's taken time to sort through the criticism of me (both as a pastor and as a person) and to know how to respond constructively. finally, as to why i didn't write more in this space, i think that somewhere in there, i kept wishing that i had something wise or insightful to say about it. for the most part, i knew i didn't and that mostly left my raw feelings, which, while important, were better expressed in other venues.
one such place was marble retreat, a christian counseling center in colorado. i found our time there in early august very helpful. high in the rockies (elevation over 8000 feet/2400 metres), out of cell and internet contact, we had a chance to rest, work through issues with a counselor and in a group discussion with others in a similar situation, and soak in the rugged beauty of that part of the world. good food, fellowship with some wonderful people, and time to reflect, read, pray, and even play a little bit -- all of these were therapeutic in their own way. and in the midst of all of that, the Holy Spirit was able to push through in some needed areas, including some issues that long pre-date the bridge yet still shape my relationships with people today. i recently told some folks that while i know that healing is a process, i felt like i (and we) took a big step forward there.'
after we returned from colorado, we set aside some time to process everything as a family. i hadn't realized how much this situation affected our girls. to both of them, but to n especially, this was a costly move and time investment. the largely unspoken assumption, i think, was that the 'trade' was supposed to be our lives in exchange for a new ministry that would bring people to Jesus and make a positive difference in their lives. that would be worth the cost. but what do you do when the ministry not only ends, but does so amid acrimony and blame? surely that's not what God intended. how do you own your feelings (vs. suppressing them) and still stay soft-hearted toward God and others? during our time together (with b via video conference -- thanks skype), we took the better part of a day to reflect together on scripture, to speak openly of how we are doing, and to share our unfiltered feelings about all that has happened. we also took unhurried time to open our hearts to the Spirit in prayer and to ask for his blessing on those who used to be our church family. it was a very powerful and uplifting time, and as a friend recently observed, a real gift from the Lord. i came away both hurting for my daughters and impressed with them; as i shared in a recent prayer update, i was reminded again that they are not babies anymore but young women with their own observations, insight, and understanding, and that i need to accord them the proper respect. we saw that time as the beginning of a conversation rather than the end of one, but it was an auspicious beginning.
i have rejoined the staff of lighthouse christian church, our mother church, for a year-long 'pastoral residency.' i will have responsibilities in the small groups ministry, with the emerging compassion and justice ministry, and in helping lighthouse re-evaluate its church plant framework and be part of the discussion about future ministry expansion plans. as i said at a recent ministry community meeting (the core group of lighthouse), i hope to contribute to the ministry of lighthouse and move the ball down the field in some significant areas, while benefiting from the best that lighthouse has to offer in helping me to gain experience and skills as a pastor.
the future is wide-open at this point, and i would greatly appreciate your prayers for God's leading and blessing as we begin our discernment process.
i was and am so appreciative of the e-mails, cards, phone calls, and even visits of so many of you, who came alongside to offer a listening ear and to speak some much-needed truth -- about me as a minister, a leader and a person; about our situation with the bridge; about success and failure in God's eyes; and about our prospects for the future. you are one of God's most precious gifts to us!