Straight Paths

Come on over for a visit. And then as you’re getting ready to leave, look to the right. Next to the front door.

That small picture with the dark brown frame. We got it a long time ago. It’s moved with us. Four front doors over the last thirteen years. The reason is what it says. Come a bit closer. Can you see it?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

“… He will make your paths straight.” That’s the best part, isn’t it? God. Pointing the way. Encouragement on steroids.

But that’s the end. There’s the beginning.

“Trust in the Lord… .” That’s the hard part, isnt’ it? Sometimes really hard. Because trust and understanding don’t hang out too much. They don’t fight, but they just don’t tend to show up at the same time very often. Both/and would be cool. Either/or is more like it.

Over the last little bit, we’ve been learning that trust part. Again. That doesn’t make us special. Just human.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at Johns Hopkins here in Baltimore. It still feels weird typing that. For whatever reason, my immune system confuses who the enemy is, and picks a fight with itself. Friendly fire’s not good. It’s left scars on nerve pathways in my brain and spine. That scarring interrupts impulses that travel there. The information still gets where it needs to go but has to re-route. The result is symptoms. Unpredictable and uncomfortable. I have what’s called Relapsing/Remitting MS. There are times it remits – the symptoms subside, things settle down, kinda normal. Those days are OK. And then there are times it relapses – the symptoms reappear, get worse, new issues. Those days aren’t much fun.

Trust…

About two years ago I approached the Elders of the church I lead and nervously shared some concern I had. MS was wearing me down. Less certain, more tired. Physically and emotionally, harder to do what I’d always done. They were so gracious. And caring. And helped me.

Then March 2020. The month the world changed. And the start of survival mode.

Masks. And isolation. And preaching to a camera. And wondering. And worrying. And praying. And moving private struggle to the side. Because that’s what you do to survive.

Trust…

It’s been a necessity in the past. And now.

My physical reality remains. I don’t tend to lead with my illness, so what’s apparent to people isn’t always the full picture. What’s been hard is now harder. And it’s created questions my family and I couldn’t have imagined thirteen years ago as we arrived to Maryland to begin a church.

Can we go on? Should we go on?

And I’m learning again in this moment one of the lessons of life that’s the hardest – sometimes the difficult decision and the right decision are the same thing.

And so we met with the church we lead this week. The greatest people in all the world. Our loved ones. And we shared a few moments together. And we talked about trust. The past. The present. And the future.

Beginning this month, we’re starting a 5-month process as a church that will carry us through the end of September.
At that point, my family and I will be stepping away from vocational pastoral ministry and we’ll be winding down Life Church.

That was hard to hear last night. And it’s still hard to write. But sometimes the difficult decision and the right decision are the same thing.

Througout this summer, a time of the year that can be challenging for faith communities, we’re thankful that we’ll have the opportunity to worship alongside another church – Impact Church – that currently rents our space on weekends. Two churches, worshipping God together. Loving Jesus. And loving people.

And as we approach the Fall, we’ll have opportunities for our church to gather together again to talk, and laugh, and remember the past, and anticipate the future. And celebrate how good God has been. To trust. Together.

We’re grateful that we’re able to stay in Maryland. In his providence, God has blessed both Brenda and me with jobs we love outside of our work with our church, and we look forward to continuing to do them, and as our children both head to college, adjust to and enjoy the next chapter of our lives.

Are we nervous? Yes. Does it feel strange? Very. But I’m pretty sure that describes faith. But faith’s only as good as the one in whom it’s placed. I think God’s a pretty good bet.

You’re reading this because we’re connected. In some way our paths have intersected. Thank you. We give God credit for bringing you into our lives.

Thank you for cheering for us and our church over the years. Thank you for being our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, and our loved ones. And thank you for praying for us. Please keep doing that.

And let’s all keep going. Let’s keep believing. And let’s keep trusting God.

Straight paths are ahead.

Sincerely,

Todd, Brenda, Ally, and Mikayla

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