January swept by quickly – a mix of lazy days and crazy days as we firstly holidayed, then worked long and hard in some very hot weather. And then it was February… What was it we were going to do this year again?…
I stopped writing ‘goals for the year’ about 20 years ago. It seemed that the goals I set often needed to change mid-course and I achieved just as much ‘winging it’ as I ever did when I was focused and strategic. As a Christian goals always need to be set with a caveat – ‘unless the Spirit sees fit to take me somewhere else’, and usually he does. So now it’s more a case of trying to ‘tune in’ well rather than mapping out a pre-set course.
That said, this year is a time of significant change for both Danelle and I and we have been approaching it a little more intentionally so that we don’t just get swept up in the urgent and the easy.
The big changes?
We are empty nesters – have been for a while – but we are settled into that life now. It’s a big house – with many spare rooms. What do we do with all that space? We are pondering this and the numerous opportunities it presents.
We are no longer paid pastors. Someone asked the other day how it feels to ‘not be a pastor any more’. Honestly… I still feel like ‘a pastor’ ( well – my own iteration of what that looks like!) and I doubt I will ever stop feeling like that. We go to other people’s churches and we notice the visitors sitting awkwardly at the end of the service, so we go and say ‘hi’. We see the needs around us and feel drawn to them. Most of that is good – but I have drawn some hard lines to try and create a new space for us to inhabit. So far so good…
Freedom!… I can’t help but picture Mel Gibson screaming this word in Braveheart 🙂 But we do have great freedom now to put our hand to whatever we choose. Ironically as soon as we choose to invest deeply with anyone or any project, we surrender that ‘freedom’. I know I am struggling to navigate this one as I am enjoying not being tied down – but significant contributions to any task or people requires commitment and the surrendering of personal freedom. If my kids ever read this they will likely comment ‘remember what you used to say Dad?! Life is a series of trade offs…’ It seems to be a theme we wrestle with – you can’t achieve anything significant by avoiding commitment and investment. Hah…
Reaching the End of The ‘retic road’? – It’s been building over the last few years… questions of my own sustainability in an industry that requires a reasonable amount of physical grunt work. My capacity for that kind of work decreases each year – and it seems that the effect of repeatedly working my body hard has taken its toll and is showing up in various aches and pains. But what to do?… We are open to concluding in business, but haven’t seen an exit strategy just yet. And part of me just plain doesn’t want to let age beat me… Actually it’s less of ‘not being able’ and more of wondering about the possible health consequences of another 10 years like this. It used to be that hard work built muscle – but now it seems that hard work strains tendons, ligaments and muscles and I spend more time in pain than I need to. I love the work and the connection with people that it gives me. It could be game over, but we aren’t clear on any kind of exit plan as yet.
Opportunities Everywhere! As I look around I see a heap of potential spaces to invest time and energy – and they all look somewhat attractive at face value. There is so much I’d like to do with the 20-30 good years we have left. But nailing it down with clarity is difficult at this stage.
I just finished reading Tim Costello’s memoirs where he writes of a similar phase in his own life where he finished his pastoral role, but hadn’t found his next assignment. He describes several incidents including a conversation with Jeff Kennett high up in his offices above the city where Kennett offered him a key role in Victorian political life. It was during this period in his life Costello was tempted to pursue a role in Australian politics – but he goes on to say that it may always be his ‘temptation but it is not his vocation’
That was a really helpful insight as I sense there are ‘temptations’ for us in this place in life to pursue agendas that are not vocational and could be a distraction from the main game. We need to make good choices in this season.
That said there are some things I/we want to do this year:
Parents – my mother in law, Val went into hospital a couple of months back and as I write this she is still there. The hospital made the call recently to stop medications (they weren’t working) so Val will go home soon and will be in palliative care.
We aren’t sure how long for, but we want to help Val finish well. She is a great picture of how to die well – no panic – no anxiety – just a quiet confidence as to what the next stage looks like.
I hope I can approach death with the same peaceful disposition. Val is a beautiful woman and has been a fantastic mother in law. We love her and want to honour her with good care in these final days.
Similarly my own mother has fairly advanced dementia and both her and dad are now in a Yanchep nursing home. Mum remembers who we are most days but she is often vague and unengaged. It’s a matter of time for her but again we don’t know how long.
Whatever we do this year must take our elderly parents care into concern as a high priority.
Study – I am going to do some study in the area of professional supervision so that I can be better equipped for some of what I see lies ahead – coming alongside younger leaders and helping them find their own unique way of serving and leading.
Surfing – The year off due to back pain took its toll on my ability to surf. My judgement, my balance and my capacity all took a pounding after 12 months out of the water. I asked myself ‘is this it?… Is this where it ends?…’ Am I just going to be that old guy who hangs put at the beach bit never gets wet?
The answer is a firm ‘no’, When something in your world gives you life then you do everything you can to keep at it. I can’t explain the joy I find in this one activity, so I am giving significant time to go surfing. When the swell, winds and weather line up I will be creating space to drop work and hit the beach. No apologies 🙂
Business Shifts – it’s time to make some shifts. I can’t see how this will play out, but I do know something has to ‘give’ here. The choice is between selling Brighton Retic, restricting my clients to only those I want, or just dropping it altogether. The business has been a blessing to us in so many ways over the years, but I’m pretty sure this season is ending.
Pastoring– Danelle and I are still involved in the same local churches we were leading, but just at a lesser level.
We also want to be available to country churches that could use a hand for short term periods.
Neither of us are chasing a paid gig leading a church again any time soon, but we do want to use the experience we have.
Left Field – recently Danelle and I had a shared experience that felt like a God moment, moving us toward a completely unexpected initiative, but one that would use both of our talents well. Since we had the experience we have been praying and reflecting on how we deal with the prompt. Was it the spirit of God, or was it just a bizarre coincidence?… if you’ve ever had an experience like that then you know the drill.
I guess time will tell as we see how things unfold around us.
So this definitely isn’t the year to be ‘setting goals’. Rather it’s the year to set the sails and tap into the wind of thr Spirit going where he takes us.