Monday, May 12, 2008

The past five years

This weekend marked the fifth year since I graduated from college. Since our number system is based on 10, I am programmed to think that five is some how more of a milestone than four or six. Thus, I am blown a way that it is five years.
So one of the only things I really regret from these past five years is not keeping up with friends. This is especially true the past couple of years. Heck, we have not even sent out Christmas cards the past couple of years. This summer I am very excited that I will get to see several people who I wish I had stayed in better contact with at two weddings. I always feel awkward seeing people who I have not seen for a while. They will often ask a question like "what is new with you?" and I don't know what to say. I truly want to be honest with this person, but do I let them know everything that has transpired since we last met? Do I tell them only the most recent stuff, even though they have no context? Usually I will just say "not much" and they will do the same. It is sad.

I don't want to do that with some of my dearest friends who I have not seen in a while, so this is for you. Here is a brief capsule of everything I have done in the past five years:

So the big thing after graduating was I got married on May 24th, 2003. Of course, if you are reading this you probably know that because you were there. The next two months after that were probably two of the most stressful months of my life. First on the way back from our honeymoon our car broke down. The transmission was dying and we were in the middle of Tennessee. Thankfully, we found incredibly nice mechanics who took pity on us. They found a used transmission from a junkyard and installed it. We had to pay cash, but to put I am fairly certain now that they basically just charged us at cost. I now know that for putting a new transmission in we payed very little. We got back to Evansville where we lived for that summer, and only a couple of days later I had to take Abigail to the emergency room, because it turned out she had a kidney stone. Now the bad part about this is we were in transition, which means we did not have health insurance. For me the rest of that summer was spent making pizzas and applying for teaching jobs. However, the teaching jobs were not happening and I was getting really stressed about it as July came to an end. I was praying about it a lot, and while praying I felt prompted to go look at Corydon's paper for a youth ministry position. There was not one, so I thought it was just wishful thinking from me. A week or so later I felt the same prompting, checked again and there was one. I had an interview the day after we moved.

Unfortunately the church job paid very little so I had to do something else. At this point I still wanted to teach, so subbing made the most sense. By the end of the first semester I had learned that I HATED subbing. It is all of the crap of teaching minus all of the good stuff. The other part I hated about it was the way the teachers treated me. Teachers basically assume substitutes are idiots, and several of them treat them as such. As someone who just spent the past four years working to get a teacher's license it really, really upset me to be looked down on like that.

However, at the church things were going well. I did not have much support, but that was ok I really loved what I was doing and I was good at it. In late December/ early January the church imploded. Old Capitol had two poles in the congregation. An old guard who wanted things the way they had always been, and a new guard who really wanted to pull towards more contemporary services and community outreach. These two sides had been living in tension, and when the Staff-Parish Relations committee requested a pastor change that tension was like a powder keg. Most of the new people had been single handily attracted by the associate pastor, and the old guard essentially forced him to resign, and close to a fourth of the church left with him. Like I said, I got very little support and I was mostly cut off from a lot of this. I wanted to do what was best for the youth, and in church politics maneuvering I allowed myself to get used as a pawn. This made me enemies that I didn't know I had.

The next summer was also rough. I had a lot of job interviews for teaching positions and they were all bust. The evening before schools started I fought with God. I mean seriously fought. We lived next to a public park, and that night I walked over there and shouted loudly at God. I think I even said a few cuss words. I was upset, I had spent the past year pursuing what I wanted to do only to have every single door slammed shut. Finally after letting it all out, I asked God what he wanted of me, and God answered. I can only describe this instant as an "Aldergate experience" (sorry non-Methodist if you don't know the reference). My heart was strangely warmed and I had a blessed assurance. In that moment God communicated to me beyond all doubt that I was not suppose to be a school teacher, but I was suppose to be His teacher. I could work with teenagers but it would be in ministry. This is what I was suppose to do, but in order to do it I had to sacrifice my personal dreams and ambitions. This was my call into ministry.

The next school year was good but rough. I saw a need in the community, and I started having the church be open on Friday night for teenagers to just hang out. I got this approved through the right channels, but it pissed some people off. Once, when some (supervised) teens were playing football in the parking lot they had the cops called on them for suspected vandalism (I later found out who called the police, and it was someone from the church who knew what the teens were doing there in the first place). After that there was something of a sex scandal from a retreat I did with another church. Apparently something happened between two and three am one of the nights. Allegedly, to teens had sex then. Of course they both denied it. Something happened then that much I know, but I don't and will never know what. Anyway, I handled it right (the pastor said so), but one of the people in the church who didn't like me was a grandparent of one of the involved youth, and for all intents and purposes started a witch hunt. There is no reason to go into everything that transpired the next couple of months, but basically it got to where I had a choice. I had several supporters in the church, and I could rally them up and at the next administrative board meeting throw down and bring dissent to a church that was already wounded, or I could quit on good terms. I chose to quit on good terms.

It was just a couple of weeks after that when Abigail and I went on a planned trip to Scotland. It was an awesome (and much needed) vacation. It is easily one of the highlights of the past five years. If you look through the archives of this blog (May/June/July of 2005) you should find a picture by picture description of that trip if you are interested.

The day after we got back I had an interview at Epworth. It was really amazing how that interview came to be. After quitting at Old Capitol I applied at a Presbyterian church in Cordyon. I had a good interview. The pastor at Old Capitol had talked with the pastor at the Presbyterian church, and told me my chances were good. So the presbyterian church called my references. One of my references was friends with the pastor at Epworth. Somehow this led to the me getting called out of the blue by Epworth. I came back for a second interview at Epworth and they hired me. In hindsight, it is really a headtrip to think about. Epworth is where God wanted me, but I never would have gotten there on my own. Leaving Old Capitol was painful and scary, but it is amazing to think how God was part of it all, working it out so that I would be where I needed to be.

The first year at Epworth went really well. I got along really well with the church and connected well with the youth. The job was part time but I did not do a whole lot outside of ministry though. Honestly I needed a break. In Corydon between subbing, ministry, and working as part of an after school program I was regularly doing 60+ hour weeks. I think when I came to Epworth, I was right on the tipping point of going through some sort of burn out, so I really needed the time off. That spring I fulfilled one of my life goals and I got published twice actually. A website paid me for several reviews and Group magazine published a game I created. Since then the website has since restructured and no longer uses freelancers, and Group has not published anymore of the things I have sent them.

That summer I took the youth group on a mission trip to the Cayman Islands. The trip went well, and for me it was sort of a trial by fire, because leadership skills were required and it all fell on me. I succeeded, but only because my awesome wife was by my side, keeping me organize, and basically enabling me to be the leader everyone expected me to be. I could not do it without her. Actually, anything I have accomplished in the past five years could not have been possible without the loving support of Abigail.

In the Fall I started seminary. I had forgotten how much I liked being a student. I also forgot how long it can take to write a good paper. One of the biggest life lessons I learned that first year of seminary is making friends with people older than myself. Until this point all of my good friends in life were people who about my age. However, with a couple of exceptions most of my good seminary friends are a decade or more older than me. At the same time as starting seminary I got involved with the Allied Oddballs, an Xbox 360 gaming group for adults. Through that, I have made some really good friends with people who are not only older than me but who I have never met in person.

That gets us closer to present date. The past couple of years have just been incredible. I am rocking a 3.73 GPA in seminary. Youth ministry is going really, really well. I have been able to have some great experiences like going to Camp heifer in Arkansas and rebuilding houses in Biloxi. This past summer Abigail and I went to Washington state and that was fun. I am in the middle of the process to be ordained as a deacon in the United Methodist Church. The latest project I have started is a podcast for the church. It is young (only two episodes thus far) but I am excited about it.

So that is, in a very brief nutshell, what I have been up to for the past five years. If you made it this far, thank you. So what have you been up to?


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