I’ve been hyper-social lately with all the graduation hullabaloo for Kid2. With all the receptions and events I’ve been running into folks I haven’t seen in a while and they’re asking some variation of the following question:

“So, how’s the job search coming along?”

I was also kind of pleased that many followed up with, “I’ve been checking in at The Diner and you haven’t said anything about it in a while.” Nice to know people still know where to find me if they need me.

Since today’s rain will likely delay the planned mowing I’ve got some time to fill you in on the long five-month (and counting) gap between my former job and my future occupation.

First, the best advice I took has to do with staying in some sort of groove. The idea behind that is so you don’t become some sort of unshaven pajama-pant wearing vampire with Kleenex boxes for shoes. I’ve stayed disciplined in this regard. I get to bed at a reasonable hour. I wake up early and run through the time in the Word. I browse the daily miracle that is a newspaper. I have an exercise regimen that varies enough to keep it interesting and drink plenty of water (somebody said that was actually important and I didn’t think it was…but trust me when I say it is helpful).

Then I shower and get ready for the day just like I was heading to the office. Then I spend a couple of hours hitting the job boards and responding to e-mails and all that jazz. The nature of job searching is different in that it used to be that a resume would get you that necessary face-to-face meeting you’d need to land the position. With the age of the Internet, employers use resumes & requested audio/video as vehicles to slice candidates from their consideration, which has changed the search methodology a bit. But there’s only a couple of hours you can even do this every day, max.

I spend another hour or so every day working on the pub idea. I make calls to folks who know more about the industry. I visit breweries. I read books on opening pubs and the philosophies of creative business folks. I talk to business owners and ask LOTS of questions. I’m resigned to the reality that at age 46 with 24 years of full-time ministry, the odds of me landing a job in middle management somewhere or even sales is slim-to-none. I’m also resigned to the reality that I’m a rare bird for what goes on in many churches these days and if there’s no “fit” for me (and them) then the best job I can have is the one I create. I work on that and the same entrepreneurial spirit that drove (and would drive) my professional ministry will be beneficial if I actually walk down that road.

Then, well, the days get long after lunch.

There’s six hours or so after all that’s done until my people come home from work.

That’s a LOT longer than it sounds, kids.

I keep my mind active and stretched. I’ve read 36 books with topics all over the map: History, fiction, creativity, biographies, “how-to’s” on writing books and screenplays, etc. I’ve seen 31 movies and it’s cool to watch them now that I’ve seen how they go from paper to screen. I listen to great music. I go see music live. I guess the arts are the way to keep the brain engaged. Your life will be better if you keep the television off from at least noon to 7PM. Longer than that even. I’ve also traveled for professional reasons as well as vacation/family visits.

Along those lines I try to serve my family by making sure they come home to a clean house and a cooked meal. I take the dogs to the park or on walks and spend that time praying…when I’m not corralling the new puppy, Gobi (who, I’ve been told will be setting up his Facebook page soon).

But nobody reads a blog to hear about what you had for lunch or that you swept the back porch. What are you learning?

Okay, here’s a few things:

First, you don’t get the God you want. You get the God who IS. I’ve felt alone in all this at times. I’ve gnashed teeth and shaken fists. I’ve struggled with jealousy when others folks got the job I thought I wanted. I’ve asked enough questions that don’t seemed to get answered to ensure frustration. It’s been dark, man. Really dark. But I can’t escape two realities: One, that I still firmly believe that God was leading me away from my former ministry position (and the resulting belief that His next step is one I should actively seek). On that, I truly don’t waver. Second, the resurrected Christ is wanting a deeper relationship with me…and I get uncomfortable with that.

See, for every moment I love reading about Jesus wanting to draw the little children to Him, I have to deal with Him telling those closest to Himself that they were Satan. For all the times Jesus wept at the death of a friend, I have to deal with Him turning over tables in the Temple. He can heal the blind or paralyzed and then challenge the most educated in front of a crowd. For every hug, there seems to be a finger of judgment. I could go on. But the deal is that I need to drop my nets and follow Him…even in the confusion and and discouragement. Just follow, even though I like to have my paths well-illuminated and the how’s and why’s answered. I don’t get to pick my Jesus. I have to deal with Him as He is, on His terms. I know that sounds elementary, but it’s where I am.

Second, there are a lot of well-intentioned churches out there missing the boat on ministry. I’d heard this from several of my friends out there searching for ministry positions, but I’m not sure I believed them. Now, on the other side of that fence, I see that every church says they “are a grace driven church.” All of them say they have “kingdom growth” as a priority. All of them say they “teach the Word.” Frankly, I can look at a web site and tell you if you say those things and are really just perpetuating a system of moral theraputic deism (a term I first heard years ago from Kenda Creasy Dean, but have seen it in a lot of writing lately). Just know, interested churches, that those of us who know that grace is not only for the salvific side of the coin but also the primary motivation for living life now can spot a fake a mile away. I’m glad I can see it when it happens, too…because it saves us both time & energy.

As an aside: it is interesting to listen to as many podcasts (I listen to 4 per week…still a sermon geek) as I do and hear sermons that have nothing to do with the text they read. I’m told by friends how these teachers are “passionate and teach the Word with grace.” I often have the “facepalm” when I’m on the elliptical machine. You have no idea.

See, I’ve found a group of former pastors who are looking for work largely because we worked with the upcoming generations and know intuitively as well as experientially what the younger generation (and their parents) need in a church…not to mention what those who don’t bother going to church (who you condescendingly call “lost” but there has to be a better word, no?) are looking for. It’s nice to know I’m not crazy. It’s nice to know that there are others who “get it.” I’ve been inspired by them and encouraged by my friends who have little use for institutional mediocrity which pays the bills and builds buildings and looks like success but doesn’t disciple people. What I am surprised by is there are folks who admit this is alarming in their own congregations but don’t seem to have the energy to challenge the status quo. It’s nice to have a new group of friends who all experienced this to some degree or another. Some of you would love our get-togethers and the conversations/stories that are put out there, man.

I’m also learning about the value of those that know and love me. I found out pretty quickly who those people were and it’s nice to have focused on my family and a surprise to learn what 24 years of my profession had taught them about church and church people. I realized that I have been loved and given grace moreso that I have loved and given it to the people in my own four walls. I learned that some of the people who care about me the most are people I thought bailed on me when I needed them. They have encouraged me over beers on Thursdays. I discovered that those I thought had walked away from the faith were those that had experienced His grace in new and profound ways and in sharing their stories with me, have taught me and encouraged me. I’ve become hyper-sensitive to friends who are Spirit-led and the words they say to me. Suffice to say I have a deeper appreciation for the Body than I had when, as a pro-Christian, they’d say what they thought I wanted to hear rather than what I needed to. It’s nice in some ways to have that “pastor” title deep in the background for a time. We’ll see if I get it back. Sometimes I didn’t value those that truly love me as much as I should’ve.

Lastly, I’m learning that ministry happens in the day-to-day ins-and-outs much moreso than it does at church stuff. My prayers are much more along the lines of helping me minister and serve and encourage whoever comes into my life in the next few minutes more than praying for the roomful of students who’d be there on Wednesday or Sunday. You’d be amazed at how the kind words to your next door neighbor you haven’t seen outside in a few days means. You’d be surprised at how your true interaction with the Wal Mart college kid scanning the dinner ingredients can make her smile. Helping a friend move because you have the time. Chatting over a ballgame with a buddy opens up more authenticity than you know. Letting old friends meet the new puppy. When you see all that stuff through the eyes of eternity rather than stuff to muddle through until you can get to your easy chair, well…

…let’s just say that it adds true meaning to seemingly long, boring days.

And I remain encouraged.

I remain excited about what God’s doing.

I enjoy time with Him and His Word without some sort of professional need to do it.

I appreciate the time to be still and know…

…because my guess is that sooner rather than later…

…I’ll be taking these lessons and having to apply them when this all changes.