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Thursday, May 19, 2005

May 19th, 2005

I like the beach. It’s a metaphor for life. Life ebbs and flows. Tides go in and out. Sometimes, life feels somewhat “normal” and there is some degree of consistency and routine. Sometimes the riptides drag us away and it takes all our energy to stay above water. Sometimes, we exert a different kind of energy because life is exciting—the currents are changing and new shoreline is revealed.

Perspective is huge at the beach. Depending on your perspective, the sand in a hoagie or hot dog is either bothersome or part of the fun (Sand in your bottom is always a bad thing, however). For the daring and adventurous, the surf is an adventure—these people understand the thrill that comes with riding the waves as opposed to being crushed in the undertow. The beach is a romantic stroll for some and an inconvenience to those who don’t like sand in their car after the walk. You can hate the feeling of salt water or you can dive in with a snorkel and fins and experience a world thriving beneath the surface.

(My wife and I know about this perspective phenomenon. We have fixed up homes and seen great things happen with “sweat equity.” Some see a shack—we see visions of Pottery Barn catalogues and fun trips to Lowe’s. Some see a whole lot of work—we know that five days and $500.00 worth of paint breathes new life.)

This last year has been a day at the beach for the Voelz clan. In more metaphors than you can possibly imagine. You can read some of my earlier blogs and get a feel—to some degree. The last few weeks have been a deluge of perspective and new vision for us. Here’s a snapshot:

We had decided back in March we would move back to California at the end of summer. There were a few good reasons—all of them flowing from our commitment to family first and wanting what is best for our family as a whole. Everything we believe to be true about God’s will, everything we believe about freedom, everything we are convicted about with the process of decision making, etc. added up to where we believed it was more than okay with God for us to move back. But, this is the beach.

Beaches are magical. Beaches are full of surprises. You can study the beach and learn a lot about it—even be able to predict some things about it. However, beaches have a supernatural element. They are unpredictable too. That’s part of the adventure.

One of the interesting things about being a pastor for me is that my family lives out our journey in front of hundreds and thousands of people. We believe in authenticity and being an open book—which sometimes means processing out loud. For some, that is way uncomfortable. But, the curse of living out your journey in front of people is equally a blessing. When we have hard times and tough decisions, we have wise counsel a plenty. We have a huge family. We feel loved.

My good friend and co-pastor-partner-in-crime Randy asked me back in March if we would be willing to change our minds if God began to speak clearly about us staying. We have cried many times together through this process. We hold life loosely. If God wanted to speak, we were listening.

This past Sunday evening, we announced to Westwinds we are staying put in Jackson. I cried like a little girl in front of the church with the response we got. It was fascinating. There were many things that changed our perspective.

We felt like we were working too hard to make a move happen for one. We were interviewing with many churches and nothing felt like a good fit. I was hearing great things from search committees about my resume, but nothing felt right to us. I had offers at some churches to join their staff, but there was weird controversy surrounding some. I was in conversation with some churches in the same area we came from, but it felt weird to move back into the same community and not be at the church we came from.

I was in conversation with some churches with the idea of church planting, but there were weird hoops to jump through with some of those and we counted the cost. Furthermore, I have many dreams and a vision for the future of the church that can be done right where we are!

Another huge thing happened when our daughter came home from counseling one day. She told us that her homework was to share with us exactly what was on her mind or she would regret it for the rest of her life. She proceeded to tell us that she believed God wanted us to stay and He had given her a huge dose of perspective. This was HUGE for us. We want the best for our babies.

The phone calls, letters, emails, conversations, teary meetings, wise counsel, and friendly gestures were overwhelming for me. There are great things happening here in Jackson. We are on track for some phenomenal things. God is moving and shaking. Lives are being changed. God is not done with us here.

All of these things plus a myriad of other things led us to pull the plug on a move. God often speaks in the smallest of details. In a weird way, as uncomfortable as this process has been I am thankful for it. These things are character building. We have strapped on our seatbelts. We are ready for the ride.