God has blessed us during our year in the Chicago suburbs. In July Esther and I celebrated 10 years of marriage at the very restaurant at which I proposed to her in downtown Chicago (pictured right). In August little Elijah joined us. I will never forget walking around the neighborhood just outside the hospital in Highland Park, filled with joy and amazement at being a family of 5! Unbelievable. God has been so good to us.
We purchased a minivan, which makes me feel like an official “dad.” I became quite adept at chucking snacks into the back row while driving (a skill every Dad must master). We had great fun exploring Chicago, going to various museums, etc. We knocked off almost item on our lengthy bucket list, and especially enjoyed the Shedd Aquarium, Lake Michigan, and deep dish pizza. Our friend Alicia Sturdy did an awesome job taking some pictures of us last fall downtown. This is a favorite:
My job this year has essentially been to write a book on Augustine’s doctrine of creation. I am finishing off the last 5-10 pages this month. Its currently under review with the potential title: Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation: Ancient Wisdom for Current Controversy. In my spare time I also finished off a different book which has been accepted at Crossway, which is titled Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future. I have also done various teaching and speaking throughout the year. A special highlight was teaching a week-long class on the theology of St. Anselm at Bethlehem College and Seminary in January.
Over the previous 6 years I did not have the “space” in my schedule to follow through on a number of writing projects and dreams, so it has been such a blessing to finally chase down these ideas that have been brewing in me. But being a part of the Creation Project has been such a great experience on other levels as well. The most enriching aspect, I think, has been the opportunity for learning, friendship, and networking. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is an amazing place with a lot of very gifted people, and there is a lot “traffic” coming through with the Creation Project. Being a part of the discussions happening here has been such an enriching experience, and I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned.
Our intent in coming to Chicago was, in addition to my writing, for a season of rest and refreshment, to prepare for our next pastoral deployment. After our last ministry experience, we really needed it, and it has totally been worth doing. (I am a huge believer in “sabbaticals” after this experience. What a difference they can make.) Over the course of the year we have considered a number of different opportunities for our next step. This has been an occasion to go deeper into waiting on the Lord, surrendering our wills to Him, and asking Him to have His way with us so that Jesus is all in all.
While we have seen God’s rich care for us, it has also been a painful, dark season. But through this time, we have felt that nothing has changed regarding our sense of calling to pastoral ministry, and our burden for the Southern California area in particular. Therefore, I have accepted an opportunity to serve as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Ojai, in Ventura County roughly 80 miles Northwest of Los Angeles. God made it very clear, through a remarkable set of circumstances, that this is His path for us, and we are thrilled at how He has fulfilled the desire of our heart.
Our theme passage for this season has been Psalm 121, particularly verses 3-4:
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The truth expressed in these verses is what we have looked to over the last year, and I preached on this passage in my candidating sermon. God is really there, and He is watching over us with care and attention. He can be fully trusted—not just in theory but at the deepest possible existential level. We put all our hope in this truth over the last year, and God didn’t let us down. We are grateful.
- for God’s protection and guidance as we move this week;
- that the result of my writing efforts this past year would serve the church and bring glory to Christ;
- that God would anoint and equip me for this new, exciting phase of ministry.
Thank you all! Here is a favorite picture of the Ojai Valley. I can’t believe we will finally be “home,” and this is it.