A Red Letter Year

This has been a red-letter year* for Amy and me. We knew at the outset 2010 would be special: wedding in March, we turned 50 in April and October, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in June, and we spent four months together on sabbatical. As always, we planned but God has his own plans to make this year special.


It was a joy, after performing over 100 weddings to be dad and sit with Amy at our son's wedding. It was an awesome day to remember God’s goodness, his faithfulness and his love that brought them together. We are so happy to see them settled into life in Pasadena together.

Another son continued his masters and sang in several operas this past year. He came on staff leading worship at our evening service. What a joy to see him using his gifts and developing his music skills, and to see him become more and more of the man God’s calling him to be.

We underestimated the significance of our sabbatical pilgrimage, especially to the holy land with 26 friends and members of our church family—sunrise looking over the Sea of Galilee, renewing our vows in Cana, praying in the synagogue in Nazareth, remembering our baptism in the Jordan River, walking down the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane and across the Kidron Valley up through the Lions Gate into Jerusalem, praying at the Western Wall, walking up the steps Jesus walked to the Temple, praying in the Upper Room, listening to the story of Palestinian Christians at the Bethlehem Bible College, and remembering the horror of WWII at the Holocaust Museum—and to Kiev and Moscow with our choir—preaching in the churches, hearing the stories of pastors and priests who were persecuted, learning more about the 1000 year history of Christianity, and seeing the new thing God is doing in Ukraine and Russia.


Our theme of pilgrimage and practices took us places we would not have been otherwise. Traveling to historic Christian sites—Rome, Assisi, Lindisfarne and Iona and practicing a consistent rhythm of prayer alone and together with others made our time very rich. We missed our family and church family, but God made us keenly aware of opportunities to connect with strangers, new friends, and communities where God is at work in simple and profound ways.


Our return home taught us so much. It’s transformative to hit the reset button. No work emails for four months. No accessible cell phone. No concerns, because we left with a wonderful staff and lay leadership who stepped up in my absence, which I found does make the heart grow fonder. I missed preaching and came back with a renewed energy. I think we were missed, not just in general, but for the gifts we uniquely bring to our church family. One of my staff told me, “Thank you for setting an example for us of taking care of you and getting away with Amy.” That feels gratifying.


The rhythm of daily prayer has stuck with us. Amy and I continue to pray together ancient Celtic liturgy for Morning Prayer over coffee and Compline prayer right before bed. It gives our day a framework to seek after God together and to sleep with his protection and under his care.


We also learned about opening new doors without fear. After four months of opening restaurant doors, B and B doors, church doors, and apartment doors, we learned to trust God with the new adventure with faith. Those doors are either doors of welcome and hospitality (for which we are grateful) or doors of challenge and faith (for which we attentive to what God is doing). Either way, they represent an adventure and an opportunity to grow.


This fall the door of our Generations Campaign was an important door to walk through as soon as we returned. Reaching back 65 years to those who stepped out in faith to provide what we enjoy now, we were inspired as a church to step out in faith as well with our own praying, giving and serving. We united around 21 days of prayer and a day of prayer and fasting, as well as a vision to provide beyond ourselves to the next generation and future generations of children. About 1000 people came to a lunch or dinner, 500 families contributed cash or pledges totally almost $7 million, including $2.5 million in cash. In this economy? God has shown himself to be faithful and our church has responded with generosity.


But for me personally, I grew in my own faith of what God can do in me and through me. I never led a campaign before. I never talked about money so much or casted a vision so extensive or so costly. And I never felt so certain that I was the right person in the right place to use my gifts of leadership, vision casting and preaching.


Amy came back to her small group of young adult women. It’s so wonderful to see her grow with them and grow in her own gifting. Amy has had the opportunity to speak to women about marriage and about how God has been at work in her own story, and to walk alongside other women to see how God is at work in their story.

Amy and I are so grateful to be where we are and who we are becoming as 2010 comes to a close. This was a red-letter year for us and we pray 2011 is filled with new doors, new adventures, and seeing God at work in new ways in us and through us.

*More than 100 years ago my great grandfather celebrated his 21st birthday while at sea with the navy. He wrote in his diary it was a “red-letter” day and actually used red ink!

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! And thanks for posting such an awesome picture of me :)

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