*On Sunday, at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on 2019. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.
My Dearest Shades Valley,
There are moments in life that break the routine of the normal everyday… moments that have a way of slapping us in the face with the reality that often right in front of us lie life’s greatest treasures. At worst we’ve been oblivious to them, while at best, we’ve taken them for granted because they are simply our “normal.” Saturday evening, the moment that broke into my normal everyday was actually a Cadillac breaking into the back of my Camry, and I was slapped in the face, literally, by a steering wheel. In the seconds that followed, I was confronted with the reality of what my life’s greatest treasures are as I called out to my three kids and waited for them respond that they were ok… then again, as I called my wife to tell her what had happened… then once more, as we knelt as a family to thank God for his mercy toward us in Christ. Saturday night brought into sharp relief the reality that Christ, my wife, and my kids are my treasures.
But, my list of treasures does not stop there, for, in 2019, something else broke into my life. It wasn’t a moment, but a three-month Sabbatical. This break tore apart the routine of my “normal” and slapped me in the face with the reality of one of my greatest treasures that is right in front of me every day… you… Shades.
Through my Sabbatical, God confronted me with how much I need the church… the local church… this church. I need Shades Valley Community Church. I need to gather with you, worship with you, hear you sing, hear you pray, hear you testify. I need to know you and to be known by you. I need to come to the table with you. I need to sit under the preached word with you. I need to weep with you, rejoice with you, and go through the “normal” with you. Why? Because you are the grace of God on my life! God uses you to strengthen, sustain, and sanctify
me… he uses you to draw me to Jesus! I can’t do this thing called Christianity on my own… none of us were ever meant to! Sabbatical solidified my conviction that God has given us
one of the greatest treasures of this life in the local church! Shades, I treasure you because you make me treasure Jesus all the more! Allow me to list just a few reasons
from 2019 alone that causes my heart to call you the same thing Paul called the
Philippians, namely, “my joy and my crown…” in other words… my treasure.
I treasure working alongside the staff of SVCC. Ed Kaylor retired last August after so many years of faithful service, and the riches he has poured into my life are immeasurable. Brad and I were blessed by John-Mark being brought on as our third full-time pastor. To work alongside these two brothers, friends, and true partners in the Gospel is one of my greatest joys. Leah is like an older sister to me. A much, much older sister… but one with whom I love working and seeing her heart for the Lord pour into the children of our church. And all our support staff: Landon, Scott, Parke, Jeff, Maria, and Allison make up an incredible team with such servant hearts that overflow in joy-filled service. I treasure working with this staff.
I treasure serving alongside the elders, servant leaders, and all our volunteers. Shades survives because of God working through an army of selfless volunteers who do everything from creating the artwork that adorns our facility to decorating our communion tables, from heading up the construction of our new kitchen to handling all the details of every baptism that happens at Shades. I treasure serving alongside all our volunteers.
And speaking of baptisms, I treasure every last one of them. We saw some amazing baptismal testimonies this past year from Blake, Kenley, and Teresa. And, I will never forget the joy of baptizing Levi, my eldest son, last Easter. I treasure that God continues to save people in our midst.
And, I treasure that he continues to send people out from our among us. Last year alone, we commissioned Ed Kaylor, Chrissy Hessing, Alec and Sara Hersh, Margaret Winchester, Anna Fargason, Lexi Gilbert, and Lucy Kate Green… all to new ministry opportunities both global and local. Not to mention that the Lord continues to allow us to send out 20-30 college students each year to be lights in whatever community he places them. I treasure being a part of a sending community!
I treasure being a part of a church that lives on mission. In 2019, our local and global mission teams have increased our involvement at home and abroad, and their efforts continue to grow. I’m excited for what the future holds. And, I’m blown away by the countless testimonies I hear of the Lord working missionally through individuals and families in our body. We have more families pursuing adoption (domestic and international). I know so many who are involved with Young Life, with homeless outreach, with counseling, with special needs, and on and on. So many of you have shared with me how the Lord has worked through you in the context of your vocation, your classroom, your home, and your neighborhood. You are a people who see all of life as mission, and I treasure being a part of that!
And, if I could mention one last thing from 2019… I treasure seeing you live as a generous community, and I’m not just talking about monetary generosity. Don’t get me wrong, this past year, your financial generosity was overwhelming as we not only made budget but concluded the year with a significant surplus. However, I see your generosity poured out in so many other ways: through volunteering your time; through your patience with each other and with me; through the way you love every person that walks in the door even when it’s hard… and there are hard times. But, you love through the hard, you generously suffered with one another as we had many difficult deaths last year… you sorrow with one another so well. You are generous with your tears, and that is a gift. And, you are generous with your joy! You celebrate with one another, encourage one another, push one another, and you love one another. I know because I experience it in the way you generously love my family. Shades, your generosity breaks into my life on a near-daily basis and slaps me in the face with the reality that one of my life’s greatest treasures is always right before my eyes… you. I treasure you, Shades Valley Community Church.
So…in 2020, may we treasure that God has given us another year together to break into this world’s “normal” with a gospel that slaps us in the face with the glory of God so that all may see life’s greatest treasure is right in front of them… Jesus! Shades let’s take that gospel and keep going into the world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering, and sharing that Gospel. Let’s love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with us all… for truly, Shades, there is no greater treasure than Jesus.
I love you all,