Panic and visions of being stuck inside my house for weeks at a time has overwhelmed me at times (not really but overly cautious). Why? Because for some reason (being called by God) to live on the East Coast after spending all my life in California. Where I grew up it maybe snowed once in the 19 years I lived there. For the past 18 years I have lived in Southern California. All we have there is fires, mudslides, and earthquakes. I put on extra layers of clothes when it hit sixty degrees.
You can imagine what was going through my head as the first snowfall hit. What do I do again? Congregation members gave me a good amount of ribbing that made me wonder what I got myself into. Imagining back ice everywhere and cars slamming into one another. My family being short of food and supplies because I was not smart enough to plan ahead. Being stuck inside my car somewhere off the White Horse Pike eating my carpet since I was not smart enough to stock my car with food. Basically a winter armageddon, everything bad that you can think of… I though of.
So here I am with the fear mostly worn off after the first couple of snowfalls. It is different driving to work and watching for the shiny areas on the street that denote black ice. Remembering to wash off the car after the snow melts, to get the snow salt off the can. To dig my car out of the snow you don’t give the shovel to the kids to do, since they would bang and ding the heck out of it. To take it easy when driving in the snow since most lanes are not totally clear of snow. And to remember to add antifreeze into my van (had that problem this week). Basically, I have learned that my great fear is not nearly as bad as I think it will be… just take it slow and listen to those around me.
Yesterday, I met with a congregation member who took me to Five Guys, who is suppose to be a challenger to the legendary (yes, legendary) In and Out Burger. As the member came he challenged me to really try the Five Guys. So I did. With the comment that if a Double Double was around in Jesus’s time, that is what we would be using for communion instead of bread. With that standard we checked one out yesterday.
First off Five Guys also has hot dogs and stuff. It is not a strictly burger joint. But I had a Bacon Cheeseburger. Unlike In and Out, you tell them exactly what you want on your burger. From mayo to grilled mushrooms to lettuce. It is completely customizable to your specifications. The only bad thing that I found is that they only cook it well done, not like you really get a choice at In and Out anyways. What I found peculiar was that they gave free peanuts away and the fries are cooked in peanut oil. I like me a good peanut oil fried turkey so this did not bother me any, but I questioned the use since there are so many people that have allergies these days. In fact my sister probably could not go into the place since it would cause her to swell up like a balloon. Actually, it would be kinda comical. Just kidding Kirst! Or not.
I would definitely go back to five guys since the price was reasonable and it was pretty good. My search will continue for the perfect burger that can replace in my mind a Double Double.
I was watching Good Morning America this morning and they talked about a man who was so fed up with putting Christmas lights that he put a dummy up like the picture above. It was so realistic that passerby’s could be seen running to the dummy’s aid.
This led to a conversation with my wife about the good ‘ol Azusa Pacific Days.Every Christmas in the residential area they had a competition called Light Wars. The idea was to dress up the exterior in some Christmas theme and someone would come around and rate it. Well, you have to understand that we were an odd bunch in our apartment. We came up with the idea of putting up a surfer theme (surfing board with a dummy on it with a Santa hat) and a big sign lit up that said “UFO’s Land Here”. For some reason we didn’t even get into consideration and we were actually hurt because we tried. Can you believe someone with a Biblical theme actually won? Come on now! One has to think outside the box and we were really outside it!
One of the areas that I stressed during my different interviews with my APNC was concerns about my family. Where they going to acclimate? Where there kids for them to hang with? What support did the church have for everyone in my family? I am glad in many ways we are not heading into a redevelopment in which my kids would be the only ones. As Jenn and I discerned our path, it was important to us that the call that I would seek would properly have support for everyone.
Sure, I am only fifteen days into my call here, but I am surprised by the genuine nature of the congregation. I was asking my wife the other night if the APNC had spoke to a number of people about our concerns or was this really them. I am totally in the honeymoon stage of my ministry here, but people are very supportive of my family. My kids (the older ones) at first were hesitant about heading into sunday school and youth group. They both found it something they want to be involved in and may actually go to winter camp. That is if the youth can break my girls down enough, no pressure from me! The younger two have definitely taken to being the Pastor’s Kids. The oldest boy is playing catch and tag with anyone that even looks his way and I think people feel obligated to play with him since he will not leave them alone. And the baby… who can’t help but dote over a four month old.
As I sit here in my office, juggling phone calls and emails I can rest assured that the congregation that we have been called to has alleviated all the fears and stress that I had with our family. Now lets see how the first day of school went and if I have to go “red Sean”. Let’s hope not.
Sure Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for the blessings that you have and for family. I have some great memories of sitting around stuffing myself and watching football. In fact I asked my wife’s parents/ family if I could have her hand in marriage following Thanksgiving Dinner/ Lunch (it was around 2 in the afternoon). But one tradition that I did partake in that will always have a Thanksgiving tone is playing paintball with my brother the next day. Some families had the tradition of playing football… my brother and sometimes Conor would head to Carpet Bob’s Paintball around Napa and run in the mud. Nothing like being covered in mud as you were trying to “mark” others. There is nothing quite like trying to shoot someone with a paintball at 290 feet per second on a cold morning in the rain. Ouch. It was those weekends that developed something fun, that unfortunately I don’t have the time or the body to do anymore. That is travel and play tournament paintball.Most people really have no idea what was going on in my life during that time. The fun times that we had traveling around and creating chaos in various cities from Lemoore in Central California to Port Orchard, WA to Las Vegas. I miss traveling around originally with Joe, Jason, Paul, Donald, Adam, and Conor. Then it was with Pete, Chad, Francis, Ken, Leo, and a whole host of others. Nights trying to flush huge bags of paintballs that went bad down the toilet at the Silverton (before they upgraded it) to having to deal with sharing a bed with Joe who kicks in his sleep. Or the many times we went to the Excalibur buffet only to remember that we should NEVER GO THERE.I miss playing five and ten man tournaments in the now defunct Pan Am Circuit and in the NPPL. What I don’t miss is the mountains of dollars that it took to keep the equipment at the edge or the time for practices in smelly out of the way locations.While I am thankful for the journey in life that I am on, there are somethings that I miss. That being young enough and crazy enough to be involved in the paintball tournament scene during the mid-early days. The days when teams like ours could actually be sponsored before the times of huge conglomerates. What I do miss out of anything is the time spent with the guys whether at practice or just shooting the breeze. Here is a shout out to you all!
I have had the opportunity to do something that we try not to encourage our members to do… that being ‘church shop”. Or the act of checking out what other churches are doing and so forth. In some ways it is pretty cool since I get to see what other churches are doing but at the same time have no intimate contact with a church family. Now that I have been out and about I miss being at a church every Sunday and look forward to that time again.For the past four weeks I got to be a free agent of sorts as I have made my way through a bunch of different churches. I think a general theme has arisen as I feel that each pastor was talking directly to me. The first week was a visit to the Radiant service at Oxnard First Presbyterian. They were doing Stewardship Sunday and Pastor Ted Brandt was talking about God’s comfort in the midst of suffering. The following week was Pastor Ron Urzua from Word of Life Presbyterian preaching on God’s provision in the midst of difficult times. Last weekend I was at Westminster Presbyterian during their Stewardship Day as Pastor Dan Birchfield talked about the longevity of the church and its legacy, that in the mist of chaos and the economic climate God provides. Last night I was at Glenkirk Presbyterian in Glendora as Pastor Jim Miller talked about the sacrifice that God wants from us and that it is all about finishing well.Each of the themes of the sermons that I have heard this last month felt like they were meant for me specifically. Is there a conspiracy between the churches where I am going? Or maybe its God speaking? I guess my attitude did not change much after the first time…. or even the second… so apparently I got four sermons to finally get what I was suppose to get. I GOT IT!!!…. I think. That in the midst of the craziness of my life, God is going in front of me and providing, just need to remain faithful.It is easy to have faith in the good times… character and depth of faith is built during the tough seasons.