Sunday, October 21, 2007

They Tell Me "Cleveland Rocks"

They tell me Cleveland rocks but I really wouldn't know. I've only seen the tops of a few sky scrapers from the windows of a jet plane on a late night flight. They tell me there is a museum where they chronicle the history of "rock 'n roll music." I understand that their beloved Indians blew a trip to the World Series tonight as they caved in to the Boston Red Sox. They have a football team named simply "The Browns." What does that mean? What is brown? They have a basketball team named "The Cavaliers." I checked and a "cavalier" is a "gentleman trained in horsemanship and war." Or simply "a soldier." Perhaps they play basketball on horses in Cleveland. I do not know. They do not have a hockey team and so I am automatically suspicious. Cleveland is situated on the shores of a big lake named "Erie" which gives me pause. Haunted houses I have heard of but a haunted lake? They have a river named the Cayahoga. It caught fire once back in the 1970's because it was so polluted. Somebody must have put the blaze out because the river is still there. The lake looks pretty clean and is home to many sailboats and yachts. So they tell me. Like I said, I've only seen the tops of some buildings.

But what I have seen is a town named "Sheffield Lake." There is no lake named "Sheffield" in Sheffield Lake. It too is on the Erie beach. This town has lots of homes and precious little industry or retail. They seem to have saved that for communities directly surrounding Sheffield Lake. One thing it does have is a body of Christian believers named "First Baptist Church."

As of today I am their pastor.

I could tell you a little more about this church and this town. But just a little. Actually I do not know any more about either of them than I do about my own thoughts and feelings. I am looking for words. Struggling to comprehend my own emotions. Grasping for a handle on the entire thing. Several friends that I talked to on the phone today said the same thing. "I can't wait to read the blog you write tonight." Actually, I probably would not have written a blog tonight had it not been for their comments. But they unknowingly made a good point. This little blog spot gets about 50 "hits" per day and about 300 "unique hits" per month. Many of those people have been praying about this with and for me. It is only fair say something. Just so long as you understand that there is a lot of emotional and mental fog between me and the keyboard tonight. I reserve the right to take any of it back at any time.

Here is what I am thinking ...

-How very gracious of God to allow me to live in one town for 24 years and completely raise my children here. I know many youth pastors and none of them can make the same claim. And it wasn't me. It was God. I ticked off enough people (and got ticked off myself enough times) to have realistically been gone long ago. I wrote my resignation on more Monday mornings than I care to remember. All but the last one wound up in the shredder. My kids knew stability. They knew consistancy. Most of the time they felt loved by their church. Ok, so it blew up in the last few years. They were big enough to deal with it by then. And they are all directly serving King Jesus so it must not have harmed them too badly.

-I am 14 days away from leaving every human being that I know. I will live alone in my father-in-law's awesome "5th wheel" trailer until our house sells and Debbie joins me. Christopher may come but it is doubtful.

-Every familair landmark in my life is about to become a part of my personal history. From the grocery stores that I frequent to Jessica, the lady that cuts my hair. From the names of the streets to the name of my mayor and friend. Just yesterday I was driving down a street in my community when I noticed a police car driving toward me. I mean driving TOWARD me. Like he was playing "chicken" with me. When he got close he veered off and waved as he went by. I know his name. We've worked together with some problamatic teens. If a policeman drives toward me in Sheffield Lake I will assume he is trying to take me out. The police chief stopped to talk to me at a local quick mart a few days ago. He is my friend. We have walked through dark buildings at 3AM together looking for people that were not supposed to be there. I do not even know if Sheffield Lake has a police chief. They must. But it is just a guess.

-I never really understood "The Arch." And now I am going to have to explain it to people who will wonder about St. Louis. I have to make up a story. It is big and shiny and half missing on foggy days. And no matter what you say ... it is wierd.

-Having been a youth pastor for 32 years I fully plan on doing "youth ministry for big kids" as a Sr. Pastor. They will never know it but that is exactly what I am going to do. Before you tell me it's a dumb idea please remember that Jesus said we had best become like little "children." I'm thinking it is the only way to go. They will never figure it out. They probably expect that a normal guy is moving to town. He is not. I know I am many things but "normal" is not one of them. I am going to teach this church how to pray and obey. They will learn or they will tolerate me or they will fire me. Check back in a year.

-If this sounds harsh I do not intend for it to. Had I resigned 5 years ago and moved away I would have had several hundred people to say "goodbye" too. But I resigned a year ago and spent the bulk of my time healing on emotional, physical, and spiritual levels. And today when the decision was made and the deal was done I only had a handful of phone calls to make. That is not something that gets blamed on anybody. It is just one of the facts which stem from taking a year and laying low. But still, it made me profoundly sad.

-What will I miss the most? People are exempt. The following things come to mind. Forgive me for butchering paragraph form and all of the rules of good grammer. I will miss fighting about the Cubs and Cardinals. (Cleveland is an American League town.) I will miss fighting about the Bears and the Rams. (Cleveland is an AFL town.) I will miss toasted ravoli, Imo's pizza, scores of teenagers, my house, Dierbergs, Becky "Queen of Carpet" commercials. I will miss the central time zone. I will miss the occasional Boeing test pilot trying out the latest F-18 hardware at St. Louis Regional Airport and a case of Fitz's rootbeer.

-I will not miss the refineries 5 miles to my south. I will not miss incredible heat and humidity, totally inaccurate winter snow predictions, oil and chipped roads, all of the closed Wendys restaurants, the mad dash to see who can build the biggest and coolest new facility on Moreland Road, pork steaks, Hartfords flammable dirt, the Mississippi River and her miserable shortage of bridges, the only lake in town being at the cemetary, highway 140's "suicide lane," and walking the hay of homecoming.

All I know for certain is that I am going to the Cleveland suburbs. That is in Ohio, the state that is so friendly it says "hi!" in the middle. There are people there that need Jesus and God told me to go tell 'em. I have not baptized anybody in nearly a year and my prune fingers are not pruney anymore. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. I have asked God for a church, how big or how little is immaterial to me, but a church that wants to fall in love with Jesus. I have prayed for a body of believers that were not going to be afraid to throw away the mold and even beat the heck out of the mold maker. I have asked Him for a group of men and women who are willing to learn AND teach. I believe that He has answered my prayers in the form of FBCSL. I am aware that I have every potential to walk in and screw it all up. But my plan is to hold on so tightly to His coat tails that I cannot possible miss a turn in the path of following The King.

How do I feel tonight? I'll close with some singular words. Maybe that is the most honest way to go.

I feel honored. Humbled. Trusted. Loved. Ready. Rested. Ambitious. Determined. Lonely. Excited. Frightened. Tenative. Prepared.

Of all of those words my favorite is "loved." Loved by my Father. My Abba. And I am ready to love Him back and to love my neighbor as myself. 14 days and counting. Let's do it.


Anonymous said...

Ron, this is a great post.

I wish you the best of luck in your new role and will be looking forward to your posts as you build a new life with new favorite places and people.

Hopefully we'll still see you on the St. Louis blogs!

Anonymous said...

Cleveland has a hockey team called the Lake Erie Monsters that play in the AHL.

The Browns were named after the owner.

Anonymous said...

God is so good. You've been a long time waiting on Him - I just know this is going to be amazing.

Blessings, Ron.

Anonymous said...

You will not miss pork steaks? A more noble cut of meat has not been made on the hog!

Seriously, this has been a long time coming and I know you are both excited and a quite anxious about the situation. But you're right. Stick close to God and let Him work out the details, you just do the work. I pray that it will be everything you've hoped for and more.


Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for you! Looking forward to reading all about it.

~Carol in Tulsa

johnsonfamilyof6 said...

I am so bringing our 4 girls so that they can play in some REAL snow!!

Zookeeper said...

Best wishes to you as you embark on your latest journey. I'll be checking in on you in cyberspace.

Anonymous said...


I came across your blog as I was searching for someone in the St. Louis area. Looks like you are currently in Mansfield for a wedding and, if so, I'm just about 5 miles from you as I write.

God's best to you in your new ministry in the Cleveland area. If you haven't done so already, connect with Randy Chestnut as soon as you get a chance. He's been the Executive Director for Cleveland Hope and will be a great resource and encouragement for you. He serves on our trustee board and GuideStone Financial Resources and is a good friend and super colleague.

Blessings as you start this next chapter of your journey.

John Ambra
GuideStone Financial Resources
Dallas, Texas