A few years ago I was presented with the opportunity to come back to Stratford, Iowa, to First Baptist church, as their pastor; for those of you who have followed this blog for some time, FBC in Stratford was my first pastorate. Let's just say I prayed about it as I was jumping at the opportunity. The church has a parsonage, so I could live there and not have to worry about a houe payment; and I needed to slow down, and this was a part time position (which, as a side note, allowed for me to get a greater disability from the VA than when I was working full time with St. Croix Hospice...) We love Stratford, and absolutely love the church; the people are wonderful and accepted us, again, with open arms. This was, for me, the perfect position: I get to pastor a church I LOVE, I get to do life with people I LOVE, and I have already had the opportunity to do weddings and baptism services for kids (adults now) that I have known their entire lives. IT IS GREAT. The longer I have been here, a little over 2 years now, I have come to this conclusion: unless the Lord changes my mind, I am going to retire from this church: if the Lord allows me to live that long, it is about 14 years. However, there is a problem: the good part of living in a parsonage is that you don't have a house payment; the bad part is that when you retire you don't have a house. So, my wife and I have decided to buy a house in Grand Junction, Iowa, about 30 miles from Stratford. I am going to continue pastoring this church, but, if I am serious about retiring from this church, it behooves me to buy a house now for retirement (have you seen the way housing prices are skyrocketing and interest rates are climbing????). I will be transparent for a little bit: I was a little depressed about this process; not because of tghe house, or the decision to retire from this church. Those are both great decisions. I was a little depressed because I know tha reason I am doing this now is because of my stroke; the reality is that I might not live long enough to retire, and if that happens I want my wife to have a house of her own. I do not want her to face the reality of having to find a place if I die while living in the parsonage. This house, as great as it is, and as wonderful as it is to have a place to retire to, is, in reality, a "just in case" house for my wife if I die before I get a chance to retire. Perhaps no one else thinks this way, but I do. I am an optimist, to the core, and I never, ever, think negatively; but, regardless, I do live every day of my life under the reality that I could die any time: I know anyone could die at anytime by getting hit by a car, I get it, but it's different when you lose your balance on a daily basis, it's different when you catch yourself drooling because the muscles in your face don't work right, it's different when you have to park in a handicap spot because you feel like your legs are weak today and it's different when you find yourself searching for words that should be second nature. Bottom line, buying this house and making the decision to retire in Stratford was the right decision, not just for me, but for my entire family; but, buying this house was a little hurful because it is a reminder that I might not live until retirement. Don't get me wrong, 95% of the time I feel great; but for that other 5% I feel like I am not worth anything...Let me end on a good note: WE BOUGHT A GREAT HOUSE!!!!!
Tomorrow I will preach the funeral for a dear friend of mine. He was the definition of a selfless person. I truly appreciated all that he did, but, when I was meeting with the family on Wednesday a memory came to me suddenly and I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Let me back up a little bit: After my stroke in December, 2008 my license was revoked for obvious reasons and it took me some time and practice before I was able to drive again. I finally got my license back in February, 2009. But, shortly after I got my license back the reality of the severity of my stroke became evident: my stroke had seriously impacted the PONS area of my brain stem, and therefore, a lot of my nerves were negatively impacted. One of the nerves that was damaged was the nerve that controls my eye movements; my left eye would would twitch, at times almost uncontrollably, and that made it really difficult to drive, particularly at night. That brings me to the memory that left me so emotional. Fast forwar