Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pondering again

It's been a while.

Some of you know that I have been in a significant time of transition these last few months. To quote from The Princess Bride, "Let me explain ... No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

I am no longer serving as a pastor. I resigned my post at Calvary in March. My professional and personal life has been in something of a freefall since that time, for a variety of reasons. I've moved outside the Cities, which has been a great relief to me. I realize more than ever what a farm kid I am, and how much I need to be out in open fields to stay healthy. I've been living on my younger brother's small farm near Red Wing, MN and driving truck for an agricultural supply company in southeast Minnesota. I have loved being out in the country and dealing with farmers again. What a gift.

At the same time, I recognize that my exit did a lot of damage to the church and to a lot of people that I care deeply about. While there is a complex backlog of reasons why I've done the things I've done, the damage I've done is huge, and I carry the weight and remorse of that every day. Yes, there is forgiveness in Christ. Yes, I believe Romans 8:1 ("There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus") as much as I ever have. Yes, I have huge regrets for relationships broken and friendships lost and colleagues alienated. Absolutely. At the same time I cling to Jesus who forgives sinners, who redeems our brokenness and brings great good out of terrible evil. Including mine.

And yes, I am still in close fellowship with God and in various shapes, with his people. One of the things I'll no doubt be writing about in the coming days if I decide to keep posting to this blog is my changing ecclesiology -- what I believe about the nature and purpose of the church. I've been learning and thinking a lot about that recently. And I still support, in a variety of ways, the mission of Calvary Lutheran Church, and of the Christian Church in more general terms.

I've also been brought face to face with myself -- with some of the things that are deep in my core, things that make me who I am, things that I thought I could just set aside to do a challenging job at Calvary. I intentionally laid aside much of what is at my core as a farm kid, as a hunter, as a guy with deep rural roots, not to mention as a writer. I had friends who would occasionally call me on that, and rightly so. How could I live on a postage stamp suburban lot in the inner suburbs? Moving to Zimmerman in 2003 was a stretch toward a more urban environment than I wanted. So when in 2014 I moved into the first ring suburbs, they rightly challenged me. Seriously? Jeff was going to live in the city?

And it didn't go well.

There are lots of factors in this transition, lots of things for me to learn, lots of things I have learned already. I don't intend to bring them all out and process them on this blog -- I have more appropriate venues for that reflection, and friendships in which I can do some of that sharing and thinking, thank God. I am continuing, as I will throughout life, to grow into what it means to be the beloved child of God, to live into that Romans 8 authority as his beloved son. I continue to have lots to learn in that arena.

But at the same time, I know that is the core of my identity, and I have to embrace who he has created me to be. I have missed sharing my reflections in this format. I have missed the chance to ponder in print in a more disciplined sort of written reflection and to let other people interact with what I've been thinking. I miss writing in a way that impacts the world, at least a little bit. So maybe there are still a few die-hard blog-followers out there, and maybe not; but at any rate, this kind of writing demands a little more disciplined approach than a simple journal, and I'm excited to occasionally post a little of what I am pondering and learning.

I'm still obsessed with the same questions. What does it mean that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not? What does it mean that in his death, Jesus conquered the powers that so dominate our lives? What does it mean that Jesus sent his followers to proclaim his kingdom, and how is that going in 2017?

Looking forward to pondering with you.

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