300 Miles to Go, Part I

Man, it’s been a long journey.

We started in August, talking about the idea of launching back out into full-time ministry. It’s been three years and I got really hurt last time. But we both knew the timing was right. I remember sitting on the couch at our house one evening and Kelley asking, “When do we consider this a real possibility?” I couldn’t believe she’d just said that. I’d been resistant before but the timing of her question couldn’t have been more divine.

For awhile I’d been feeling the tug to rejoin the path I’d left a few years back. I knew this could be a big risk. I kept thinking, “Not only is there the pain of past experiences but now I have a family that I’ll cast into this and only God knows where we’ll have to move.”

We talked off and on for the next few days about our options. I pulled out my resume. Added some new experiences to it and posted it to a couple of church job websites. Within a week we had half a dozen promising prospects.

Not a single one of them in Birmingham.

Before too long, three job options began to emerge that we wanted to pursue.

Seattle. Huntsville. North Carolina.

The one in Seattle seemed so exciting and we were convinced we’d be moving our family across the continent. That was a hard idea to stomach but it was a very electrifying prospect. They are a very large Christian resource publisher and I was being considered to write their training curriculum. A couple of interviews later and I received a gracious letter from them to let me know they had chosen another candidate.

We’d been talking (really emailing) the churches in Huntsville and North Carolina to try and setup conversations, possibly even visits if/when the timing was right. These emails and conversations went at a slow but rhythmically predictable pace. We had been at this with a goal of knowing where we’d be placed by Thanksgiving 2009. We had a couple of opportunities to visit with one church and spend an extended amount of time on the phone with the other and started to really get the sense that both of these places were involved in some really spectacular work.

All the while, we knew we needed to get our houses ready to sell (remember, Kelley bought a townhouse before we started dating and after we were married we began renting out). We’d asked a real estate agent we knew to help us sell the townhouse.

We got nowhere.

So, for our house we turned to our good friend, Social Networking. We posted on Craigslist, facebook, Oodle and our own personal website and by the afternoon we had record-interested buyers. We had the pitfalls of some scammers, too, causing us a little bit of chaos and aggravation. Thankfully, we were quickly able to squash them and keep moving ahead. We just knew that with the housing sales still in the crapper, we had to generate some quick interest that would stand out from the other houses on the market in our neighborhood and turn our house around fast.

As most of you may remember, during this time Rosie had been admitted to Children’s Hospital for more than a week, Christmas was only days away and the new year was quickly approaching. This was not a calm stretch of weeks for us. This Holiday season was a little bit busier than others in the past had been. Add to that the stress of not knowing where we’d live once we finally sold – or rented – or leased – our house.

Our plan was to move into the townhouse and live out of our luggage until we knew what direction we’d be heading with these job prospects. Sometime mid-January just before we were heading up for another visit with one of the prospective churches, we signed the lease to our house with the new family moving in February 1. As we were traveling, our agent called to tell us that someone was interested in purchasing our townhouse.

Guess when she wanted to close…

Yep. February 1.

There goes our plan for living at the townhouse. Looks like we’re piling in with Kelley’s folks. Gonna be a tight fit. But hey, saves us lots of money. Still living out of a suitcase, though.

In light of the way God seemed to be working things out, I laughingly told Kelley that I expected to hear from one or both of the churches on February 1.

Meanwhile, we ordered a POD to begin packing up our things to make room for the new family moving into our house. We submitted the order to have it delivered on Thursday. But sovereignly, early Tuesday morning, we were awakened to repeated rings of the doorbell. I threw on clothes and went to the door to find a large 16’ container being dropped off in our driveway. Earlier than we were prepared for but it would turn out in our favor, having two extra days for packing. It’s amazing how our 1500 square foot house fit into such a small space; and humbling to realize that all our earthly possessions are in a little box that is half the size of our garage.

After the final walk-through we said goodbye to the house of all our family memories to date. We were married at this house. We brought our babies home to this house. We celebrated Eli’s adoption here.

Birthdays. Baptisms. Lots of firsts.

It was hard to now see this house so empty after leaving us so full.

We said our farewells, recalled some fond memories and drove away. We needed some rest anyway. “There’s too much limbo in our lives right now. It’d be nice just to have some direction,” we constantly thought. A couple of days later we headed up to West Virginia for a few days of skiing.

Kelley and I finally got a chance to ski together. As we were taking the lift she said, “I wish we just had something concrete. Wish we could make some plans.” And I wished I could give her some answers.

But for now, there’s a long blue run down a snowy mountain calling our names.

We’d only been back to the condo a few minutes when the phone rang. This was it. Could this be the call we were waiting on? Could this be the answer to all our searching? After the conversation played out, we couldn’t have been more excited.

A little scared but really excited.

Another amazing afternoon at Linn Park

So encouraged each time we head out to Linn Park at the increased involvement, contributions and the crescendo of passion exhibited toward the need. We were able to provide flats of fresh bread to Brother Bryan and countless warm coats for distribution to those who need it most this winter.

Thank you once again for the partnership in providing blankets, gloves, coats, toiletries, water, books, crackers, candy and other items. These little things will likely not change the world but so often we aim for the big things and their left to struggle for the day to day.

I’m so pleased to work with each of you to touch the lives of people in ways that may seem to some as insignificant.

Sometimes these are the things that make the greatest impact.


@bradhenderson Re: The Good Problems

I think I echo the sentiments of the majority when I say I feel so fortunate to be part of a fellowship that is open to discussing these challenges in such an open forum and with great candor. I think that is what makes threeonesix fellowship such a unique, special and electrifying group to worship with, to examine scripture together, and to find encouragement to live out the action of God in bringing about reconciliation and transformation in a very real way.

The very nature of this discussion is itself an invitation to think differently about everything we’ve ever known to be the way to “do” church. Even things that other churches are successfully doing right now are likely not the things that we need to do if we are re-imagining, re(or de-)constructing the structural model of organized religion that we’ve all grown up with. From the expectations we place on our Pastors, the staff we expect to hire, the spaces we choose to worship in and the missions we choose to involve ourselves in… everything at least deserves to be examined, prodded and tested before we discredit what could be the next movement of God in the American Christian Church, or maybe even around the world.

Within our fellowship right now are individuals possessing a wealth of talents, passions and unknown richness. Harry would be a remarkable discussion group leader. Tony Keith also. Jarred has started grooving right along with the band, but the talent you’ve seen from him is only a shaving of the fullness of what God has developed within him. Angie Yawn and Cindy Richards both have expressed interest in sharing their passions for music and you will see (and hear) more from them in coming weeks I hope. And these are only a few. Each one of us has a contribution to make, and there are no classifications. One is not spiritual and another financial. Everything is spiritual. It’s all connected. And I’ll bet we have much to discover about one another if we only take the time to inquire. What are your passions? In what areas do you excel that most people may not even realize?

For me, I love to teach. It started out with music and grew into an awareness of a gift God has given. I was called to ministry when I was thirteen. I’ve been active in ministry since I was eighteen, travelled the US with a ministry team for a few years, attended bible college studying Theology and Pastoral Ministry and have been in vocational ministry for the past ten years this Thanksgiving. Even when I tried to get out of ministry because I was sick of what “church” had come to mean, I could not ignore the passion to pursue the thing that burns in my bones: retelling the story of God in ways that might cause someone to want to hear more. That’s why this fellowship is so important to me. This is not church-as-usual. Many places tout their unique, modern atmosphere for contemporary worship, but threeonesix fellowship is so much more than that because it isn’t a place. It’s all of us, telling our stories of redemption and reconciliation in a way that incites curiosity, intrigue and suspicion. It’s open examination, doubts and hopes. It’s the richness that is built upon relationships, giving and taking like the ocean and the shoreline.

There was a time when Paul was imprisoned writing to the Philippians, reflecting on his relationship with them and their support of his ministry and he tells them, “No one shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except for you.” How much did he miss from other churches because they held out? How much could they have gained in their association with such a remarkable apostle? We are going to places probably none of us has ever been, but we are going together and we are inviting others to join us along the way.

Think Differently.