Six months ago today I retired from Mayo Clinic. Retired is perhaps not the most accurate word, because I didn't retire in the traditional sense. I had enough years in at Mayo that, combined with my age, I could end my employment there as retired, although the real reason I left was because of another opportunity.
I left Mayo one month short of 27 years service because I had been called to a different vocation. Two years after finishing a seminary program, going to school part-time while working full-time, I had received a call to serve as the pastor of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church in Dulce, New Mexico.
The details of our move were still being worked out when I left Mayo but less than four weeks later we were unloading all of our possessions into the church's parsonage and I preached on that first Sunday.
I have preached every Sunday in the past five months. And I've done a lot of other things too. I knew that a wide variety of tasks were included in being the pastor here beside preaching. Tonight they included shoveling snow before opening the gym for roller skating. On the day of my official installation they included repairing the plumbing in the parsonage kitchen. I could mention many other things but I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about them. There has been value of some sort in nearly everything we have done in this ministry. I say 'we' because my wife has generously shared many of her gifts as a part of our service here.
It's Friday night and I think I have this Sunday's sermon ready. My preferred pattern has been to have it basically finished on Friday and then work on it just a little on Saturday, and then again on Sunday morning before worship.
Right now, five months in, preaching is the hardest thing I do. And among many tasks of great worth, it is the one that I want to do the best at. Each week.
I came here with very little experience in preaching and, through necessity, I am learning a lot. Each week. And I have a long ways to go. I don't even know how far, but it is somewhere over a distant horizon. Of that I am sure. I have a suspicion that I'll never "get there" and that is okay. None of the preachers I am learning from feel they have fully arrived. And they are pretty good preachers, so that is one lesson fairly easily learned.
The six month point after leaving Mayo just seems like a good time to pause and think about all that has happened since then. To consider briefly the remarkable changes of leaving a place where I was well-established and fairly comfortable for something so completely different.
A very different kind of work. A very different place to live. A very different way of life.
Very different, and very good. It is good because we have no doubts that this is the place that God was preparing us for and brought us to.
In the months of prayer and discussion leading up to our move to Dulce we thought this was where God wanted us. And on that basis we came. And we are glad to be here, for we can't imagine a place where we are more suited to serve than here on the reservation of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Interesting? Always. Fun? Often. Frustrating? Sometimes, and I am glad that patience is one of my strong suits. Worthwhile? Time and again, in ways large and small.
There is a saying, "God is good all the time. All the time, God is good." It has been our joy to see His goodness here time, and time, and time again.
We give God thanks and praise for bringing us here. We look forward to continuing to serve here for a long time. We know it won't always be easy but we know it is the right place. Soon enough we'll know what the next six months will bring!