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Today would be filled with events for our move to California. I had to meet the movers at our primary storage site. But, before that rendezvous, I had a long list of other important tasks listed on my PDA.
My daily preliminaries were all checked off. Then, I headed out the door to meet with some good Michigan friends for the last time. We met for breakfast.
A simple meal spurred our conversation. We reflected over the last year and all that we had learned from our times together. Then, they blessed me with words spoken into my spirit. Those words will linger in my heart for a long time.
Now, it was off to meet my movers. I was early at my friend’s home. The driveway was plowed and the walkways salted. That was excellent planning.
Our movers arrived at the appointed time. Their monstrous truck rumbled down the gravel road. A gargantuan tractor – trailer rig found a comfortable place to park. This whale of an 18 wheeler was poised to swallow all of my earthly goods into its cavernous trailer.
I have moved a number of times in the past. Every moving company that I have used in the past had movers who groaned about the hard work. I felt so badly for them I rolled up my sleeves and helped them.
This company is different. For the second time I have used their services. Their response every time was “No problem. We will get right to work.”
With enthusiasm they systematically went about their work. No slackers were among them. Two of the workers clearly had the most knowledge of what to do and how to do it. The younger ones were paying attention on how to do it.
Moving is never fast. The careful movers are steady. Their efforts are deliberate. Progress over time is very evident.
Several times I glanced into the storage room and it was becoming more and more empty. Then, I would look into the truck trailer. It was becoming fuller by the minute.
These movers were skillful packers. They built a wall of goods into the trailer so that there was no space between boxes or goods. It was like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Only there was no picture to guide their construction. Magnificent!
photo credit: google image
An email from one of our very capable office secretaries, teased me that my boxes of books stacked by my office door was a reminder that my days at work were numbered. She was so sweet telling me that she knew that this day was coming but she didn’t want to face the reality of it. This interchange in Ann Arbor has been a picture of fellowship, trust, loyalty as well as competence, skill and devotion.
Together we have enjoyed the thrill of bonding for a cause greater than what any individual could accomplish on their own. There is a selflessness about this team that I have often paused to admire. They have a servant heart that motivates them to do whatever is necessary to advance the purpose that we share together.
We have seen lives marked for eternity. Broken relationships have moved toward healing. Those who were once in darkness entered the light.
Together we have seen the discouraged revived. Some who have lost hope regained it. When there has been hurt we have seen healing.
This team unity is not as common as one would hope, even in Christian organizations. Too often irresponsible talk, Biblically known as gossip, damages unity. This is too often the excusable sin serving as the means to a prejudiced end.
Even in the smallest ways our people talk to each other directly. Not only do they communicate with each other when issues arise, they teach that to others as well.
They practice the Biblical principle of direct communication. Gossip is always sin and never accomplishes anything good.
We tease each other about our hobbies, cheer on each other’s favorite sports teams, spend time in prayer and cover for each other in tough times. Our bonds have grown deeper. There is something about loyalty, faithfulness, and trust that are forever appealing.
But, my days with this cheerful team has come to an end. It is now time to say “Good-bye.” I cleaned out my office today.
Every drawer was opened, every cupboard checked and the closet was examined twice. Nothing of mine was left. It was very weird.
Maybe “weird” is the wrong term. A better word is “sad.” I will miss these very special people. Their lives and mine have shared a chapter that will forever be a part of each of our lives.
It has been a great team. I was deeply privielged to have been welcomed by them. They are amazing!
photo credit: google image
We love the amazement of sport. The human intrigue of a race is irresistable. There is a thrill that comes from fractions of a second separating competitors.
The freestyle aerials are insane! Who could throw themselves 30 feet in the air, spin, flip and twist all before gravity takes over. Still they land on skis and slide to a stop to the cheers of adoring crowds.
Short track speed skating is exciting. So much speed matched with crystal clear rules keeps racers fighting for balance and opportunity to pass other skaters. Breathlessly, skates are pushed across the finish line. Crowds cheer, some complain of fouls yet most keep the Olympic spirit and let the results speak for themselves.
For fans of the winter, however, ice hockey is it. It is a clash of endurance, strategy and strength. The Olympics highlight this fast competitive sport.
History visited the men’s hockey match between the USA and Canada. This game captured the attention of all the hockey faithful. Ice hockey afterall is the national sport of our neighbors to the north.
In the last 50 years, the Canadians have beaten the national team of the USA. This match-up while early in the series was a match between serious competitors. But, I missed the game!
It wasn’t because I had forgotten the match up. I actually made a mental note to tune in for this event. Instead of ice hockey, ice dancing was being broadcast.
I like ice dancing. It is entertaining. But, if I had a choice my decision would be easy. NBC never called me to ask my opinion.
We were forced to watch couples dressed in wild costumes, listening to weird music and sending ice sprays in every direction with fancy stops. The commentators taught us a lot about the intricacies of this sport. But, there were NO cut-aways to the hockey match that was making history.
In the end the announcer told us that history had been made in the rink. The USA ended 50 years of dominance by the Canadians. That day the red white and blue to the game by two goals. But, we never saw a single shot, not a single save but we did watch every couple competing in the preliminaries of ice dancing. Oh boy?
photo credit: google image
Friday began very late for me. My plane landed on time, our luggage showed up promptly and our friend swooped down to pick us up with amazing efficiency. But, flying is tiring no matter how well it goes.
Add to that digging up something to eat for a very late dinner, sorting through a week’s worth of mail and reflecting over our journey makes for an even later evening. This no ordinary time in human history either. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver are underway.
While we were catching up with our mail and munching away on some left-over food I switched on the TV. The snowy backdrop for Alpine and Nordic events filled our screen. It was exciting to see the USA doing so well. But, such a full night made for late start on Friday
This Friday will forever be special to us. Dear friends Mike and Suzy were orchestrating a farewell reception for us. They are amazing friends. They affirmed into our hearts that they want to send us off with honor and love. How special is that?
We showed up at the venue at the appointed time. What unfolded was a wonderful encouragement to us. We had stepped into the doors of Oakpointe Church and the handshakes and hugs began.
Friends from so many of the various ministries had come to say Good-bye. I knew everyone by name. Each face was familiar. We had shared many conversations, prayed together, wept together, dreamed together, and shared our lives together.
But to see them all together was invigorating. It was overwhelming. They had amazing words of encouragement to share.
Most people never get to hear those things because they are saved for a person’s funeral. What a privilege to hear from friends face to face. That’s when Mike called for everyone’s attention.
He said some wonderful words that made Yvonne and me blush. Next he handed the microphone to me and I blubbered out a few words of appreciation. Yvonne followed with a few more words.
Some brave friends grabbed the stage and spoke into us affirmation that compared to science fiction, but their words still made us pop buttons. What a delight to feel the love. It was so honoring.
I know that when we drive away from Michigan we will reminisce over the faces of friends that came that night. It was an evening where many lives made up one our greatest experiences: joy.
photo credit: google image
Our trip to San Francisco had a specific objective. We had carved out five days to locate and rent a place to call home. We are moving from Michigan back to our home state of California. I was too excited to be anything but completely confident that our search for a new home would be successful.
It started out as a very difficult journey. Our air carrier bumped us from an overbooked flight. We had the label “involuntary non-boarders.” That’s enough of a stigma to give us a complex!
We lost an entire day from our search process. The compressed schedule increased anxiety. But, we had great people doing advanced work for us. On Sunday we saw several wonderful possibilities. Still we needed to look further. Two days were gone with only three days left. I was not worried.
On Monday we saw more rentals. We had excellent professional help assisting us. It was time to explore a possible rental agreement. We quickly gathered all of the paper work, but it wasn’t enough. More sensitive documents needed to be produced. I still wasn’t worried, sort of.
All of the disclosure was unnerving. Then, my Uncle Ed came to the rescue. We had been playing phone tag for days. Once we got connected he showed us his flat for rent, we liked it, he made us a great deal.
We slept on the invitation for one night. The next morning I called him up and told that we would like to rent his flat. He agreed and I worried no more!
Now, we have a long-term position and a long-term home. On top of that we are going home to family for the first time in 37 years of ministry. This is going to be a treat.
The relief that comes from an agreement that establishes a home brings an amazing joy. I sighed a great relief. A smile flowed over my countenance. Something deep inside of me rejoiced.
So much of moving is unsettling when the uncertainties of the future flirt with longevity. Homelessness is a feeling that associated with aimlessness and castaways. But, to watch the providence of God orchestrate the details that give life substance, is deeply satisfying.
Now we have a home. It is a place to hang our hat. This place will now be the center of our hearts, joys and new blessings to embrace. Ahhh…
photo credit: bruce fong photography
Of course I have to drive through that menagerie of variety. Oddities are seemingly normal. The frequency of the unusual is the norm.
Driving around town is one of those bizarre activities. In a crowded region the traffic patterns can be described with one word: congested. You never have to worry about a vehicle being hidden in your blind spots because you can just assume that they are there and you will be right.
The signal lights and stop signs are everywhere. It seems like “stop and go” traffic must have been invented in San Francisco. Maybe the old dance style of the JerK was discovered by pedestrians laughing at drivers’ heads jerking at every block.
Light rail trains crowd car lanes. They whiz by through smaller than possible margins. On the other side is city bus. If these behemoths can navigate their way through the narrow streets of this city then I can too.
Just give me a little time to get used to the hustle and bustle. Once I peel my death grip from the steering wheels I’ll be fine. Oh, yeah, give me a massage to relax the tensions too.
In the mean time there is a phenomenon in San Francisco that cannot be ignored. This is common need that fills the routine of everyone. It ends every commute and challenges every errand run during the day. It’s called “parking.”
I was out with a friend. We were heading for a stop during our day. He spotted a parking place. I laughed and drove next to it. The only way that it would work would have been to push the car in side ways. He thought that I could make it. But, he’s a native of this urban activity and I’m from the wide open spaces of Michigan.
Excitedly he pointed ahead, “There’s a space up there. It looks like a really BIG one!” I floored the rental car so that no one else could steal my spot. It was big enough to drive in head first and then adjust for fit. One small parking feat for a rental car. One massive achievement for an urban newbie.
photo credit: google image
Both my wife and I have had various forays into the Cable Car City. We have had many visits, countless social gatherings and for me a summer living in the city itself. Tight quarters, hordes of people and foggy weather are what we associate with the city by the Bay.
Advanced scouting by the people welcoming us to our new home town gave us a clear look at what to expect. They had asked us through a conference call what kind of home we would be happy to hang our hat. We were eager to have a first-hand look.
The first house had everything we had come to expect. Living in a very densely populated area means tight quarters. Details of the house filled out mind.
Next we toured a well-appointed flat. It had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The owner had taken very good care of their property.
For our third visit we walked through another wonderful home. Every room, all the appliances, and neighborhood features were so pleasant. I could easily see that house as our home.
It was the discussions afterward that puzzled me. Yvonne and I discussed the pros and cons of each place that we visited. I was the first to confuse what feature went with what location.
Then we found ourselves talking about different houses but we were actually referring to the same one. We tried writing down what we remembered about each home. Neither of us could get it all straight and that was after seeing only three homes.
The next day we saw five more homes. But, it could have been six or seven. There was a mansion thrown in the mix some where along the line.
My favorite was a motor home with Pacific Ocean time share slots attached. My memory is a little foggy but one of the landlords offered an incentive package of 49er tickets and an optional 2 day pass to Alcatraz. I wasn’t sure what he was implying by the last offer.
I’m in detail overload. But don’t worry. My brain will unscramble very soon. When it’s time to ink the agreement, I will know for sure where I’m living, I think.
photo credit: google image
This city is a world-class metropolis. The hustle and bustle is exciting. There is a variety of people here that is mesmerizing.
A tightly crowded population matches the tightly crowded buildings. The city skyline is stunning. Both the monument bridges that feed millions of people into town are unforgettable sights.
Today I spoke to the people of Sunset Church. This was the first time speaking to them after having accepted their invitation to come and serve as their pastor. It was an unforgettable day of memories.
Hopeful eyes looked up from many faces. Names of people were as elusive as they were bountiful. Attaching identity to living souls was an impossible task.
Yet, inside me I yearned to know each one. I wanted to know their story. Even more I wanted to know how to shepherd them.
While others left their heart in San Francisco, I came from Michigan and brought my heart with me. I have every intention of leaving it with these people. Something special started today.
Today the beginning of something amazing occurred. I am falling in love with these people. It was an intentional initiative.
Of course it puts me in a vulnerable position. I opened my heart. Disappointment is possible. But I leave that in the hands of the Almighty.
Fear will not be the determining factor in my life. Instead, it is a matter of faith. I choose to put my faith in the truth from above. Furthermore, I will act on that faith. When possible I will seek to put initiative to that devotion. Caring for people requires real personal risk. There is no other way.
It began today. I shared a time of sorrow with a couple who are up against a massive health challenge. Tender listening ears was what I offered. Heartfelt prayers is what I floated towards heaven on their behalf.
There were many times of laughter too. Already there was some good-natured teasing that is indicative of hearts that are already starting to meld into one. Knitted together by commitment, loyalty and nurture we saw something that only the Almighty can do. It’s about giving my heart to San Francisco. It has begun.
photo credit: google image
At the end of this month Yvonne and I start our drive West. We will see Michigan in our rearview mirror. Friends and memories will be permanently placed in the unchanging reservoir of the past.
Laying before us will be another chapter in our lives of ministry. After 37 years of ministry, a new assignment was placed on my plate. It is exciting. The challenge is humbling yet full of possibilities.
When I thought through all that I have to do to manage this transition I realized that my days in my office were severely numbered. To cut the stress of moving week I assessed that it would be best to pack my office today. That was a shock to my system.
I pulled out boxes from my office closet. Taking inventory of my storage options was the beginning. I loaded my books and stacked them near my door.
Then, it hit me. The flood of thoughts forced me to sit down. It was just seven months ago that I was unpacking my boxes in this office.
The elders of the church had given me an invitation to serve as the Interim Pastor of Grace Bible Church of Ann Arbor. Excited to step into that role was vivid in my memory. I wondered how the weeks ahead would unfold.
Now, the archives of my heart sealed the musings of the past. I love the people of this fellowship. Their smiles and loyal devotion had been given freely to Yvonne and me.
Boxes of my personal items were now in boxes again. But, this time instead of beginning something new, I was finishing something familiar. Now, faces of friends filled my mind.
Youngsters sent me notes of thanks over the time that we have shared together. Teenagers expressed their appreciation. Of course we had some tough times. But, working through those honestly, openly and lovingly advanced our relationships.
Once these lives were strangers, names on lists of a directory. Now, they were people knitted in my heart as part of who I am. I loved them unconditionally and they reciprocated freely.
Their embrace made me sigh deeply. I smiled. Thank you, people of Grace!
photo credit: google image
Emotionally I ran into a wall with a project. It is a good project. But, with so many other things on my plate, I had nothing left to invest. It was growing bigger than I had ever thought it would be.
I considered all of my possibilities. Each scenario I looked at with an objective eye. My conclusion: cancel the endeavor.
The next day I called up a great friend, explained my predicament and summarized my conclusion. He immediately told me that cancelling was out of the question. That’s when he jumped in and directed the necessary details. What a great friend.
Two friends met Yvonne and me for a rendezvous at a coffee shop. Before we leave the state they wanted some exclusive time with us. They encouraged us.
They spoke some wonderful words of appreciation into us. On top of that they outlined how God had used us to make a difference in the wonderful state of Michigan. Finally, they thanked us for encouraging them personally. Smiles spontaneously and sincerely broke out.
Dinner was only and excuse to meet with two other friends. We reminisced, laughed, prayed and discussed great ideas. It was time to hear their belief in us, their appreciation for our friendship and bolster each other up in the struggle through ministry.
My email conversations have been active. Two of our friends reserved one night for us to dine together. Again it’s a meal that is an excuse to get together for a last farewell.
Over the years we have enjoyed adventures of faith, good laughs, deep conversations and hopes for tomorrow. Now, we are going to say good-bye. Our move west will put many miles between us. But, friendship just adapts. While time may separate our fellowship, we will pick up just like always.
Another lunch meeting is coming soon. I smile when I look forward to dining with them too. Our memories run deep.
Breakfast happened a couple of weeks ago. It was the first of many farewells. My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. Sharing my favorite meal with great friends is a special time. Over the years these buddies and I have shared miles, memories, movies and monumental moments together. It is all of what friendship is about. They’re the best. They are all the best. I am blessed with true friends.
photo credit: google image