i spent the first night of the trip with my sister k and her family. that was not planned, but i somehow got my wires crossed, flying into oakland instead of san jose. it was an unexpected pleasure to grab a bit of time with the h family, especially nephew jm and nieces m and a, all of whom are delightful and unusually awesome!
the next morning, my siblings and i met for the better part of a day, first with our parents and an estate planning attorney (just making sure everyone is on the same page), then afterward to have an informal chat with my parents about how they're doing and about some of their preferences going forward. those discussions can be a little awkward at times, but we all agreed that it was better to hit some questions head on, while our folks are still very independent and in reasonable health, rather than waiting passively and being forced to act without having talked. i think that, for the most part, my parents are way ahead of us on their planning and we kids are still catching up. in addition to reviewing and getting clarity on my parents' wishes, it was a helpful reminder that all of us kids (now in our mid-to-late 40s) need to have valid wills and in some cases, to begin wading through the sea of trusts, powers of attorney and other mind-numbing but very important document options.
late that afternoon, the second set of meetings started with a group of special friends. years ago, we all ministered together on staff with intervarsity and were literally 'partners in the gospel.' but wisely, one of the guys foresaw a day when we wouldn't be working together, and invited us to make a commitment to partnering together in prayer, counsel, and accountability. having seen a number of ministers whom we admired fall into all sorts of sin and trouble, we covenanted together to help each other be faithful to God and his calling for the rest of our lives. we meet at least once a year to share with, pray for, and advise one another.
the covenant guys (yes, i'm wearing a cal sweatshirt, a testament to the reconciling power of the gospel!)
this particular meeting was marked by many transitions. j has completed his first year as a national field director, the overseer of intervarsity's ministry for something like a fourth of the country; as with many of the things he's involved in, it seems to be going splendidly. bh has accepted a position at evangelische theologische faculteit in belgium, where he will teach new testament and at some point, practical theology; his family's imminent move was part of the impetus for meeting in june. we all hope that this role will be a closer fit to his long-term calling and what leadership theorist bobby clinton would call his 'ultimate contribution.' p and wife l were completing an adoption when our time began, and before the end of the week, we all had the chance to meet new daughter j, just days after her arrival. as you can see in the photo below, she was slightly overwhelmed. in photos i've seen since that day, she seems to be adjusting nicely to life in the b-d family. my brother b is prospering as the pastor of the river church community and experiencing all of the joys and challenges of life as a husband and father of teenagers.
baby j meets the guys (sort of)
then there's me and my tribe. look up 'transition' in the dictionary, and you're liable to find my smiling (and sometimes anxious?) face. one definition of transition is the act of passing from one state to the next, and we seem to have a lot of that going on. b returned to nyc just after i got back from my trip; she's working as an intern (unpaid) at a non-profit that provides legal services for battered women and as a (paid) research assistant in the history department. a rising junior, she has already been hired in the law school for next year. n heads off to rice university in houston in just over a month - a whole new life. she'll be living in martel and starting off in the kinesiology department. m has completed her first year at fuller seminary and may be heading toward the pastorate (at least, she's being trained as a pastor). all of that would be enough of a challenge just in terms of the sheer number of transitions, but add the financial piece in and it really pushes my buttons!
as for me, there is the question of my own calling and future. lighthouse was kind enough to bring me on to their staff after the collapse of the bridge, and it has been a welcoming, healing, affirming place for me to minister. i'm here through at least the end of 2010. but is there a place for me here longer term -- and if there is, is this where God is calling me? other options (just a few) have presented themselves as well, including some that would require us to move and some of which would require raising a missionary budget, as we have in the past (and yes, inter-varsity is a part of the conversation). even if we stay in this area, we may need to sell our home and move closer to lighthouse. the thought of all of that makes me a little light-headed!
i know that the first calling is to Jesus and to a relationship of depth, love, and sharing, always before any particular mission. i try to keep that focus as i pray for discernment (and gratefully welcome your prayers as well). but i do sense that, in the long run, i should be teaching and training, and hopefully, being used of God to multiply ministry and leaders for his kingdom. these are some of the issues that we worked through and prayed about together, and as we did, i was reminded of psalm 133 -- behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. those guys really are such a gift to me.
after our meetings, i caught an all-too-brief dinner with my parents and the h family before flying back to seattle. my mom's prime rib isn't exactly a health food, but in the midst of many transitions, it all seemed very good for my heart.
a joyful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
but a broken spirit dries up the bones.