I drove a small aqua car.
I did other things, too. I led regional serving days that brought churches together. I wrote a weekly newspaper column that impacted our region for Jesus. I enjoyed the fine menu at Smoothie King.
I'd somehow also developed friendships with amazing people from all walks of life, from the average Joe or Jane making it through their day to so-and-so's who were thinking about everybody's tomorrow.
And I kept my office in our home. It allowed me to be continually around my favorite people in the world (my family) while deepening and widening my ministry to my next favorite people in the world (God's family). Together, we'd committed to reach people for Jesus.
And we saw so, so many people come to Jesus through it.
For ten years, I lived this kind of life out as best as I knew how.
It was a blessing. I didn't deserve it.
Now I live in Minnesota.
I'm a pastor overseeing an incredible student ministry...
I drive a Ford Escape.
I do other things, too. I'm finishing a book I've been writing for almost four years with my son Daniel. This is in addition to other writing I somehow get to do, too. And I travel when I can, trying to mentor others around the country in what I've learned.
And I keep my office in a great church. It's allowed me to continually be around an amazing team of people who give their best daily. Whenever I can, I pop home for lunch - always eating at least one meal with my family.
We've seen so, so many people come to Jesus here.
For one year, I've lived this out.
It is a blessing. I don't deserve it.
Today is the anniversary of my "start date."
And that's why I felt compelled to write all of this. Nothing good that I just mentioned was because of anything I did, but because of who God is.
So in reflection, after 365 days of making the most of Minnesota I got to thinking about how I spent my last Sunday with the church I was blessed to lead as it's pastor for a decade. They blessed my family so, so well with an amazing sendoff. I responded in kind by taking a moment to celebrate each person who showed up. It blew my mind at all the ministry we did together. They were so generous at blessing us with a Minnesota care package.
I'm also reminded of my last few moments I privately spent in the church building we'd created together. I was reminded of how we'd navigated three building projects to keep up with what God had been doing over the years. So much of it was a learning curve, as we did what we all could to help lead this, and maybe that's why those last few moments were so tender.
It was just the Lord and I... and so I walked through the building, starting at the stage. I saw the chords and lyrics to a worship song and it felt appropriate to sing it... so I did... slowly and meaningfully.
I paused where I'd preached for years just about every Sunday, thanking the Lord for the gift that opportunity was.
I gazed at the chairs that different people sat in over the years. Some were only with us a short time. Others came, left, came back again, and so on. And then there were those who were there all throughout the years. Every person in every chair was a miracle that I got to stare at as I spoke... knowing the story under their story and how amazing it was that they even showed up for church that day.
It again occurred to me that I was on holy ground. So I had to respond accordingly.
I then journeyed through different classrooms where my kids had learned their faith through phenomenal people who invested into them as teachers/helpers.
It all brought me back before the Cross.
And yet I knew this was what God was calling me to do - to trust that my time in Ohio in that role was over... and that whatever was next in Minnesota was where He wanted me.
"I'll get the lights," I said to Him, leaving my key on the counter and closing the door behind me.
I honestly wrestled with this for a bit, especially when people seemed to regard my new role as a "lesser" role than being a senior pastor. "Do you think you might ever go back to that role?" I sometimes get asked.
I get it... sometimes that's just how people think of things. I wrestled with that question, too. And then I didn't worry about it anymore. Whatever I'm doing and wherever I am is up to God - He's put a passion in me for the future of His Church, and I'll live that out in whatever role He asks of me.
I'm not position hungry, nor am I position-shy. It's about being Jesus-centered and outward-focused.
Just a couple weeks ago someone randomly texted me about a senior pastor job they thought I was perfect for. It was perhaps an attractive offer, but at the same time a no-brainer that I didn't even have to spend a second on.
"Thanks, but I'm not looking. I'm right where I need to be."
Yeah, that's Minnesota. I know the stereotypes like so many of you who warned me, "You know, it's cold there." Yes, it can be... and it can also be quite sunny and breathtaking.
It's been an intriguing year. I ended up teaching a class at a Christian college. I ate a Juicy Lucy. I went boating... more than once. I enjoyed the beauty of the state with my beautiful wife. I built storage - as if I actually knew what I was doing. I figured out how to take care of a pool - because I had no clue what I was doing. I made some great new friends. I did road trips. I realized Minnesota has all my favorite foods, including Portillo's. I grew to respect the pastoral and administrative staff of our church.
I grew in my love for my family. I watched them all grow into a new season of life. I became a part of our church's teaching team. I led people to Jesus. I got pranked in the office and pranked back.
I have no clue what the next year holds, but I know Who holds it.
And I trust that being fully faithful and trusting in God's grace is the key to figuring out anything I need to figure out.
Tonight I'll invest into students, leaders and others they're connected to. It's an honor I pray I make the most of.
One year later...
I'm finding that the best "position" to be in is on the heels of Jesus, wherever He steps.
"Come, follow me,” Jesus said...
at once they left their nets and followed Him. (Mark 1:17-18)