Posted tagged ‘transitions’

The Now Whats of Life

August 6, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      August 5, 2018

                                     

On Friday I reached my summer running goal of 200 miles. It’s a challenge that I gave to my middle school cross-country runners at the end of their school year, and since I challenged them I took it up myself. 

Yesterday, the first day after reaching my goal, I found myself struggling with any motivation to run even three miles. I did, but the drive wasn’t there.

I realized that I had reached the “Now What?” moment. Goals are great and result in significant achievements being made, but after the conquered goal where does one go? It’s like a clear path through the woods that suddenly seems to fade. You can look behind you and see with clarity where you have come from, but now you’re not sure where you should be going.

The “Now What?” isn’t just a running situation. When I retired from pastoral ministry after 36 years I reached that “now what?” moment. Think of it! We look towards retirement as that goal we strive for, but when it’s reached many people flounder in the aftermath. The way has been paved through forty hour work weeks…week after week after week…and then the Monday morning after handing in the keys to the office arrives. Through the exhilarating sense of being freed the question rises within us: Now what?

In the midst of every success and milestone the question looms. Someone’s new CD goes gangbusters, a team wins a major championship, a company reaches a new sales record, a politician wins a race for office, the last child leaves home and it’s now officially an empty nest…the list goes on and on.

As I contemplated my attitude of apathy yesterday it made me go deeper. Why run? What are the benefits of continuing? Is it something that I simply go through the motions with, or does it answer a need I have? If I continue putting in the miles it needs to be because I want to, not because of a goal I’m running towards…or should I just set another goal to run towards?

When I pastored the “now what?” came up quite often. We spent so much time focused on Christmas and Easter that the question surfaced right after those energy-draining ministry times. It surfaced every year around budget preparation time. If the congregation had been spot on with their giving the question was raised in the midst of a group of optimists and pessimists. Depending on one’s view of life and the church, the “now what?” was answered with either holding steady or taking that next step of financial faith.

So I’ve had to battle the dual attitudes of optimism and pessimism within me about the next “leg” of my running journey. Why keep doing it? Well…because I am physically in better shape than I have been for some time, and because it’s part of my quiet time. As I huff and puff I pray and ponder, think and consider. And like in life, some days are more difficult than others, and other days have me more motivated than others. 

Finally, I reach that “now what?” moment every time I write a blog post. It’s done, so now what? What can I possibly write about next? 

Funny! God always seems to spring up something in my mind. 

One Year Retired!!!

January 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 22, 2017

                                       

On January 17, 2016 I spoke for the last time at Highland Park Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, the church I pastored for sixteen and a half years. I went from a long-time pastor to a has-been pastor.

A week after I graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary in June of 1979 I began a position as Minister of Christian Education and Youth at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan. For the next thirty-six and a half years I ministered and pastored in churches of Michigan and Colorado.

And then it was time!

This last year has been awesome, not because I’m just sitting around each day watching my toe nails grow! My passions have always been “coaching” and “creating.” Pastoring and coaching have a number of elements that are similar. Creating and sermon-writing are like twin sisters. This past year has enabled me to do a lot more creating, blog-writing…working on a novel…thinking…pondering…conversing. And I’ve also been able to coach middle school football and basketball, coach a struggling small-town church as it navigates the future, and, most recently, coach roomfuls of 7th Graders in the discovery of Social Studies.

I headed into retirement thinking that I would golf more, work on my slice, hone my putting game. Instead, I actually golfed 7 holes all last summer. Yes, 7! A fog bank rolled in on us as we were getting to the 7th green, and then we couldn’t even see the 8th hole!

I headed into retirement thinking that I would read a lot of those theological books that look impressive on my book shelves but have been harvesting dust. (Pause) They are still harvesting dust. I’ve read a lot this past year, but not very much theology. I discovered a new treasure- the public library! Not a week goes by that I don’t go there at least a couple of times. I’m reading history and mystery! Carol has been pleased by the decreasing number of Amazon packages delivered to our front door. I’m currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the outbreak of World War 1, Ken Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, and John Sandford’s Escape Clause. I just finished J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, that resonated a lot with my family’s Eastern Kentucky roots.

We headed into retirement thinking that we would travel more, and we have: road trips to Phoenix and Ohio, and a week in Hawaii; an upcoming family trip to San Diego and heading up a mission work team to British Columbia this summer.

Retirement has really been more a refocus. Carol tells people that I am now much more relaxed and less stressed. I enjoy traveling out to Simla and worshiping with the 20 folk at First Baptist Church. They have helped me fall in love with the church again.

Carol and I get to watch and be with the grandkids more. On Saturday nights I’m not worried about the Sunday sermon. This past week I sat on the couch with the two oldest “GK’s” and watched “The Secret Life of Pets” together. It was awesome to laugh with them about different parts of the film. They are a delightful trio…with their two-year old sister.

The hardest part of this past year has been the separation from many of the dear relationships I had with people of my former congregation. As a long-term pastor I’ve tried to keep my distance as the church navigated the journey ahead of them. There is a journey of loss for everyone involved, the congregation and the former pastor and pastor’s wife. I miss the Saturday morning men’s bible study group and the Thursday morning Ageless Wonders bible study. I’ve kept my distance from the Buddy Basketball program I started 14 years ago. Others have picked it up and continued it. I miss the conversation amongst the older saints, and I miss the group of young guys that I “coached” for several years in dialogue about their families and faith.

Retirement is about missing some things and moving on to others. I think the first year of ours have been done well. Thankfully we still have our health. Thankfully I can still talk to my dad every Sunday night on the phone. Thankfully I still have a couple of support groups that help keep me grounded and healthy. Thankfully Carol and I don’t get on each other’s nerves very often. (If Sister Wives is on TV I just leave the room! She did tape my snoring one night on her iPhone and sent the scene to me the next morning while I was substitute teaching. I just want to say, however,  that the film footage was very grainy, so it probably would not hold up in court as evidence!)

Year two of retirement began with a long-term substitute teaching position. What a hoot! Getting to spend most of each day with 120 7th Graders in a portable classroom! I could write a book!

Oh…I’m already writing a book!

I could write another book! Perhaps that will come in Retirement Year Three!