I absolutely love reflecting on the “year”… both the year spent and the year upcoming. The chance to think back upon all that happened (and didn’t happen) and to think forward about all that “could be” fills my soul with joy.
2010 was an important year… both for us as a family and for me personally. In late ’09 we left the friendly confines of Tulsa, Oklahoma to venture out to Denver to help out our friends Michael and Lisa Gungor with the church they semi-accidentally started, Bloom, back in early ’08. Though we felt strongly that the time was right for such a move to happen, it still came with a fair amount of fear and trepidation. “Will we survive?” was a question that lingered ominously at the edges of our consciousness for most of late 2009 and nearly all of 2010.
We have indeed survived… and then some. In fact, I would say that both personally and as a family, this is by far the healthiest “place” in life we’ve ever been in. Normally we would come home to WI for the holidays and I’d feel moody, depressed, and a little out of sorts. This year we came home and I felt joyful, full-hearted, and at ease. We’re in exactly the place in life we need to be in, and though there’s still uncertainty in the air (actually, we live with a fair amount of uncertainty), there’s a certain “rightness” about it. Back in seminary I heard an Old Testament scholar summarize the “big story” of the Old Testament as being “God’s people in God’s place living under God’s rule.” This feels like THAT. The year has simply reeked of the kindness and grace of God… evidence to us that God is decidedly “in” this.
That said, here are some highlights of the year (in no particular order):
The ridiculous kindness shown to Bloom by two Denver congregations, The Sanctuary Downtown and First Baptist, for letting us use their facilities this year at next-to-no cost. Why they’ve been so kind to us is impossible for us to figure out. THAT they’ve been so kind to us has never stopped astonishing.
A handful of opportunities this past year for me to preach at different churches around Denver. What joy.
The influx of some, to put it mildly, astoundingly awesome people into our community at Bloom. The level of maturity and strength of these people has provided me with something of a spiritual “warm blanket” as we do this work here in Denver. I feel safe around them. It is a joy to live life with them.
Bloom’s having enough financial strength combined with a favorable enough market in Denver for us to buy a house. Honestly, when we left Tulsa, I was fully prepared for it to take several years for us to get in a comparable housing situation… but the stars aligned such that we were able to get into a house that beats the pants off of our Tulsa house. It felt to me like God was saying, “Here, this is yours. Denver is your home. Plant yourself here and get ready to rip off 30 good years of work.” Sounds good to me 🙂
The success of our house churches at Bloom has been something that has constantly filled my soul with hope and joy. House churches, if you don’t know, are “middle space” type communities that emphasize intentional spiritual formation, community, hospitality, service, etc. Anyone is welcome and each has its own distinct flavor. Our house churches are led by and populated with – hands down – some of the most marvelous people you’re ever going to meet, and I spend at least as much time thinking about and praying for our house churches as I do anything else we’re working on as a community. I believe we’re laying the foundation for an explosion of house churches in the greater Denver area, and I look forward to the day when Denver and its surrounded suburbs are saturated with well-led, hospitable, service-oriented, life-giving Bloom house churches. God grant it!
The joy of undertaking a couple “longer” sermon series’ this year and seeing the fruit. Back during Epiphany last year I did a nearly 10 week series on spiritual disciplines called “Spiritual Architecture: Practices that Sustain Faith” and then another one later in the year on the Sermon on the Mount called “When Heaven Shapes the Human Life”. Both of them were personally enriching and challenging, and we saw some cool things happen in our community as a result. I love the ethos that we’re forming at Bloom as a result of such forays…
Coming out of the first of those series, I undertook a book project, the rough draft of which is nearly finished. My commitment to myself is that I work on one major book project per year during the course of my ministry, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Writing is pure joy for me, and I feel really privileged to be in a place where I can do it. Moreover, I love the idea of having “living theology” come out of a congregation’s journey into God, which is what I intend my writing to be. The book I’m working on now (“Spiritual Architecture”) comes straight out of our journey as a community back in February and March. I can’t wait to do the Sermon on the Mount one. And how cool will it be when, 15 years from now, we’ve got a dozen or so books as a community to show for where we’ve been together? AWESOME!
Making more and better friends in Denver and beyond… People have heard me say this many times before, but I’ll never tire of it because it never ceases to bless and amaze me: Denver is by far the most hospitable church environment I’ve ever witnessed. We are friends with more churches than we know what to do with, and I’m personally friends with more pastors than I know what to do with. Moreover, Bloom is beginning to make friends outside of Denver… people who are aware of our work and prayerfully supporting it. How in the world can I express how grateful I am for that?
Our kids (Ethan 4, Gabe 3, and Isabella 1), are totally flourishing. Enough said. And Mandi and I are more in love than ever. Again, enough said. I love these people 🙂
It’s been a good year. God has been faithful… and blessing rests on our heads.
What do I hope for out of 2011? Yesterday I wrote in my journal that my ache is to see the “tangible intangibles” of my life increase in 2011. By “tangible intangibles” I mean those things that are so difficult to measure and quantify, but are so very “real” and in truth make all the difference in the world between a life that’s rich and robust and one that’s shot through with despair and darkness. So this year, I want to…
Love God more
Present Him a “self” that’s more full of light and love and levity
Continue to nurture my family to life and health and joy
Be a better friend and family member
Bring my Bloom family even closer to the center of my affections (“you yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone”) and delight in this marvelous community enough that she begins to bear all the marks of having a pastor who labors over her in love… that is, that she herself is filled with faith, hope, and love, and that she is a community of health and strength and loving, life-giving, redeeming hospitality and welcome. That she becomes a house of hope and healing for this city… a joyful community of hilarity and service and trust.
Take the “work of my hands” – that which comes out of my specific gifts – much more seriously, refining my abilities so that I’m able to use them with surgical precision.
Those are the things I want… God, a better self, a thriving family, healthy relationships, a congregation that’s loved, meaningful work. 2011 here we come : )
Peace to you this upcoming year.