2005, like any year I suppose, was a big year for me and my family. I began the years in a depression over the trajectory of my ministry and I end the year with such a wide-eyed optimism that people think I am crazy. In no particular, especially chronological, order, here are the big things from my life in '05.
Charleigh Grace - Though we got her in '04, she became an official and forever member of our family in August. That alone makes '05 a banner year.
Chasing the Vintage Dream - I was consumed in '05 by the dream of launching a new church that intentionally connects with emerging culture. It was during the year that this dream took shape, grew legs and got up and ran. We picked a name, a location, got team members, began raising funds, moved to NWA, and are going full tilt after it. Amazing year.
The Springs Takeover - It was in '05 that I participated in the rescuing of a ministry, a kids' camp in central MI. Never in my life have I seen an organization run so badly. Never in my life have I seen a ministry take such dramatic steps in process so quickly. And I learned so much in the progress about leadership and fundraising and personnel management. I blame The Springs for my gray hair, but at least I earned them.
Friends - '05 was the year of friends for me. Besides being reunited here in NWA with Aaron, I developed and deepened some of the most meaningful friendships of my life last year. Dan and Martha, of The Springs takeover fame. Everyone from group - Don and Donna (who sacrificed so much to help us move), Brad and Lori, Joe and Denise, Bryan and Kristi. My partners in crime - Bryan and Joel. And new friends here in NWA - Charles and Phyllis, Billy and Corey, Chip.
May - May might have been the best month of '05. It held two of the best things Vanessa and I ever did. First, we went to see U2 in Chicago with Aaron and Jaye T. Bryan and Robin came along to dream with us about Vintage. It was amazing - great music, great conversation, great food, great cigars. And then, the next week, we jetted off for California for the Purpose Driven Church conference where we learned how to launch a new church. My respect for Rick Warren only continued to grow. We fell in love with Laguna Beach, and we got to go to the Reagan Library. May could not have been better.
Hurricane Katrina - Certainly Katrina was the biggest news story of 2005, and I was proud to be a part of an effort in Michigan to get water and clothes to evacuated folks. The response of people in Ithaca and all of central MI was memorable.
Authors - I read some really good books in '05, books that have reshaped me. Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Dan Kimball, Don Miller, Ron Sylva ... thank you for helping me grow.
The Pain of People - In '05, I once again felt the pain that only other Christians can inflict. In '05 people purposefully misrepresented and misinterpreted me. And it hurt. And they have continually misunderstood me, lumping me together with those who do not rise to their standard of holiness and acceptability. It has hurt. But I have not let this pain debilitate me, nor have I let it ultimately discourage me. I, as Peter said of Jesus, continue to entrust myself to the one who judges justly.
The Grenz - In the last year, this little website has continued to grow and be a forum for me and my friends (new and old) to laugh as we hash out ideas. Of course, the saddest thing to happen in the Grenz this year was the death of Dr. Stanley J. Grenz, my patron saint of theology, and the namesake for my blog. He is already missed.
Arkansas - In '05, I became an Arkansan. Who would have thought? But I love it here, especially because of the way God has answered prayers - the Hollyhock House, Providence, Family Christian Store. Now if only the house in MI would sell.
Vinny's Broken Arm - Vinny broke his arm this last year. The most memorable part of which was his choices in cast colors. First he chose blue, "for John Kerry." And then when he puked on his cast and had to get a new one, he chose orange, "for the Cleveland Browns." That's my boy.
BaYouCa - Last summer, one of my life dreams came true when I returned to Camp BaYouCa to speak at Junior High week. It was amazing ... kids trusting Jesus left and right, coming to grips with their sin, and getting some quality guidance on how to live from here on out. It was a highlight.
Well, I am sure there was more, but these are some of the mountain peeks and valley lows from 2005. Last night at church, the pastor asked people to call out an attribute of God that meant a lot to them in '05. I immediately thought of one, the very one that a lady on the other side of the auditorium yelled out first - God is a healer. In '05 he healed me and I watched him heal others and their relationships.
What will 2006 hold? By God's grace, a new church will be born, a house will sell, we'll buy a house in AR, and ... who knows ... maybe we'll adopt an orphan from Africa.