I live in earthquake country. One thing one knows from living in earthquake country is that ones concept of solid ground is completely wrong. It only seems solid because it moves too slowly for us to realize, except in those (currently) unpredictable moments when the built up energy of the earth forces itself to release and slow motion is replace by rapid, often violent change. I seem to be unable to avoid living on my own lifestyle fault-zone.
I came to the Long Beach Vineyard Fellowship back in the Fall for three reasons. I felt I’d grown enough in my faith that I didn’t need the anonymity that I had at a larger church like the Newport church. Secondly, I felt that I might have a better chance getting connected with a home fellowship going to a church closer to my home than one in another county. I knew that the home fellowship connection was essential because as I continued to explore how the Lord wanted me to participate in ministry I needed to be in relationships where I could freely turn to for support and accountability (things that were fatally lacking when I did music ministry in the 80s). Thirdly, I felt with the change in leadership of the worship team in Newport, my role as a guitarist and vocalist was being marginalized and if I was going to continue to grow in those areas I’d have to go elsewhere.
When I got to the Long Beach Vineyard I intended to stay low-key for a while to see how things would play out. Well, it was probably only a bit more than a month before I found myself volunteering my services to the worship leaders and strapping on my guitar again. So much for “low-key.” Quite unexpectedly the qualities that I so appreciated in the pastor of the Newport Vineyard I also found with the pastor of the Long Beach Vineyard, only more so. What I mean, is that, having spent my early Christian years in mostly Calvary Chapels where scholarship tended to be looked down upon and one’s pastor often was a relatively uneducated house-painter by day, Pastor Jim from Long Beach showed some academic “chops.” Probably not-coincidently, I’d been reading about how some pastors and church leaders were examining liturgical practices from the past and experimenting with how they might be tapped into for today’s services. This intrigued me. When I found out that he was working on his doctorate in this area I was amazed.
One thing that seemed to be lacking, however, was the non-Sunday morning gathering that had been one of the reasons I came to Long Beach. Besides the closer, more personal fellowship, I missed the more systematic study of the Bible. And as much as I appreciated playing J. Vernon McGee’s “Thru the Bible” series every morning on my computer or iPod, I knew that that was not enough. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Pastor Jim began a series on the Book of Revelation, from a more historical non-dispensationalist point of view. I was really excited about this. Alas, being the “Chronicle-ist” that I tend to be, I was bugged that i couldn’t record his teaching on my iPod (Griffin hasn’t released an iTalk that works with the 5th Gen. iPods yet!). Argh. Oh well, I guessed I’d just have to depend on paying attention when listening to his messages.
So imagine my surprise and disappointment when last Sunday, following his exposition on Jesus’ letters to the churches in the opening chapters of Revelation, he announced that he and his family would be moving to the East Coast and that he felt the Lord calling him to a position at a university there. Damn. I can’t believe that this was happening again. I was just getting comfortable, thinking that I was going to get some excellent teaching from a point of view that I could really appreciate and, blam, the earth shakes and I’m left to wonder why this was happening again.
The first home study I went to, following my return to my Faith, was led by Chris Parish, a former Anglican pastor from South Africa. It was just the right balance between scholarship and openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was a great time. Then he felt the Lord call him to return to his roots and assist the Episcopalian Church, first locally but eventually back in the UK. A few months after that the couple who hosted the fellowship changed churches and that was that. That’s when I began my current (well, most current) program at Pepperdine and got involved with the Sunday morning worship team in Newport. That was an adventure that stretched me, but I knew I was pushing it because I didn’t have the back-end home fellowship support that I knew was essential for a healthy public ministry, like being part of the worship team. And we know how that went (change of leaders, again, Joe moves on). So, here we are again.
In my previous incarnations, say, back in the day when I was getting tired of finding and then losing great aerobics teachers, I eventually got to the place, after so many years, that I realized that the only way to “guarantee” having a great teacher was to become one. So, that thought has crossed my mind more than a few times. But if I feel marginally equipped to handle being part of a worship team (and not even really leading it), than I’m very cautious about teaching or leading some study group. I know that Juls and her friend Dan have “sensed” a calling in my writing, but these are also the same people who believe that because I’ve persisted in being her supportive friend on the phone that this was going to bring down judgement on Juls and her family and that I was somehow getting in the way of her only “being for God.” So, I take it with a 30-ton brick of salt.
Anyway, I don’t know what’s going to happen. My last experience with a change in leadership (Newport worship team) didn’t go so well for me (as far as staying there). And the previous home study was even worse (the whole study folded up). So, I’m anxious. I have no doubt that the Lord is leading Pastor Jim and his family as they’ve felt. I just wish I had better insight into where the hell I’m supposed to be. With things at work being as unstable as they are, and being un-tethered from my degree program with Pepperdine, and no real personal relationships to speak of, this last development pretty much removes the last real anchor in my life (well, I still have my family, and I shan’t underestimate the importance of that).
One of the church ladies caught my attention and then couldn’t remember what it is that she wanted to tell me (they’re so cute… it’s like having a half-dozen grandmothers). Then later she remembered, but tried to down play what she was going to say. When I finally got it out of her what was on her mind, she just said that she really loved having me around playing in the worship “band” and was really hoping that I wasn’t going to leave. I told her that I had no plans to that end. But then with the job in a possible state of flux and whatever may come of the current e-Harmony experiment, there’s no saying if relocation is not going to happen. Of course, now that I think of it, had I gotten my wish to be with Juls I had no doubts that I’d end up with her at the Anaheim church or probably at the Corona fellowship. So, I guess I’ve always had some expectation that whatever fellowship I found myself in was somewhat temporary until I found myself in a fellowship that I could actively share with my beloved. Well, that ain’t happening anytime soon (I almost wrote “as far as I know”…. damn, argh… okay, let me spell it out: I am not entertaining any hope of having anything to do with Juls beyond perhaps an occasional appropriate birthday or holiday greetings. Period). Anyway, I need to do what God is calling me to right now, knowing that it’s my desire to do that with someone special in my life. How did this get from being an observation about my pastor/teachers leaving, to me possibly relocating depending on A) the job, B) the Lord’s call in my life, C) a relationship, D) all the above? Oh yeah, now I remember, I live on a flipping lifestyle fault-zone. Ack. JBB
Music: DSC-334-2006-02-10 – Adam Curry