Greetings, felicitations, and salutations!
Hm, perhaps I should include three synonyms for a random word in each sentence in this letter/blogpost/update. Though that could get old/aged/mundane really quickly, and I don't feel like grabbing my thesaurus.
Let's restart, shall we?
I've received quite a few Christmas letters this year, and was surprised to see how short some of them were. I think that this is because no one actually expects people to read the letter. There's nothing wrong with that, but I figured that if someone actually takes the time to read the letter part, they must genuinely be interested, or have nothing better to do. What you are about to read is for those of you who care about me for one reason or another, or those of you who are bored out of your mind. The rest of you can just skip down to the bulletpoint list at the bottom of this update, or stop reading right after I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year acquaintances and busy friends!
For the rest of you, I'll give a quick summary of my life thus far, in case you forgot (By the way casual friends... this is not the bullet list that you need to pay attention to... keep going down):
I was born on a Monday
I lived in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
I was a REALLY boring kid.
Though I won my first grade spelling bee on the word “dinosaur,” so I guess I was mildly interesting.
I wanted to be lots of things “when I grew up” but in the 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a preacher and never looked back.
In high school, my parents and a campus minister at Penn State decided that I might be better served at a secular college, rather than a Bible College at first, so I could get immersed in a secular society so I could hopefully have an effective ministry. This led me to Penn State, which I've loved since I was in my mother's womb for Joe Paterno's 200th victory, in which he beat Bowling Green.
I majored in Secondary Education with concentrations in English and Communications.
I got engaged in 2009
I'm pretty sure most of those don't qualify as “bullet points”
→ Real update starting now *buckle your seat belts!* (If you haven't even chuckled up to this point, seriously, just skip to the bottom... the rest of the letter is just more of this flippant stream-of-consciousness stuff... fun fact, I submitted one of my recent blog entries into a computer algorithm that supposedly analyzes one's writing and then says who that person writes like... mine was James Joyce. Oh yeah, you're gonna LOVE yourself for deciding to read this whole thing (sarcasm)... Ironically, after writing this whole thing, I went back to that thing at iwl.me and this is apparently in the style of Cory Doctorow, who's a Canadian blogger. I feel multi-cultural now!).
→ REAL real update starting now: At this point last year, I was getting ready to begin my Student teaching semester at Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania. I was told that at one point in the semester, I would experience all of the following: laughter, tears, illness, frustration, anxiety, anger, and a bunch of other emotions that I don't remember, but if you were paying attention, only the first one sounded remotely attractive.
Well, lo and behold, I did experience all of those emotions and more. My student teaching was filled with wonderful students, a fantastic mentor, a Penn State adviser who was my nemesis all semester (but someone whom I hold no grudges against), and a ton of work. I can honestly say that Student teaching was the hardest I EVER worked in school, but it was an incredibly rewarding experience that led to sermon illustrations for DECADES to come.
I had the opportunity to teach Of Mice and Men, Greek tragedy, Antigone, Julius Caesar, A Raisin in the Sun, The Princess Bride, and I helped my mentor teacher's AP kids through The Canterbury Tales, King Lear, Frankenstein, some poetry, and Time's Arrow. It was an action-packed semester that was tons of fun, and partially miserable. I loved being in a classroom with the students, though, and continue to look for opportunities to impact high school students in some capacity.
Once May rolled around, I prepared for graduation. My fiancee's dad had told me that I couldn't marry her unless I found a job. I had made a trip out to Columbus, Ohio to interview for a church in Ohio State Buckeye territory, and though the church and I had a very positive interview, God must have known that there was no way I could minister to the non-Christians in the area if I was too busy working on the Ohio State cheering heathens within the church there. A week before graduation, I really had no prospects, but I did find a job posting for another church in Culpeper, Virginia. I decided to shoot off an e-mail to them, hoping that they would pay attention to a 22 year old kid from Penn State with no Bible degree. As it turned out, I graduated from Penn State, and they did pay attention and granted me a phone interview, and after that, a trial sermon / physical interview.
The trip to Culpeper went well, and I felt very good about the church and the direction in which my life was heading-- then my fiancee broke up with me. Don't freak out, it's ok now, but if you saw somewhat alarming statuses on facebook between July and October, that's why. I'm not going to go into great amounts of detail on this subject (that's too personal to share in a mass-mailing / blogpost... and besides, we'd get out of James Joyce territory and head straight for Leo Tolstoy... not because the entire breakup took place in social-economically depressed Russia... I was driving for the whole “War and Peace is LONG angle of things... in case you didn't pick up on that). Anyway, long story short, the breakup was MUCH more of a surprise to me than it was to her, and I now faced the prospect of taking a job in Virginia where I knew no one, if the church hired me.
I called the church and informed them of the newly tumultuous situation in my life. After discussing it with the congregation, the elders of the church decided to recommend that the congregation vote on whether or not to accept me for the position of “Preacher.” I'm not sure how many people were there, so let's define the number of people present at church that day to be x, and t can be the total number of people who voted for me, so that works out to x-1=t. The one guy who didn't vote for me has since confessed that it was him, and he said it was due to uncertainty he had about my breakup. Anyway, with a nearly unanimous vote, I became the preacher of First Christian Church at Culpeper, Virginia. 2 and a half weeks later, I was on my way down to Virginia.
While it's true I wasn't exactly overflowing with cupfuls of cheery sunshine and unicorn flavored lollipops at first (… that didn't work... you know what I'm going for) God definitely has been using me in Culpeper. In the time since the breakup, I've come to a point of genuine peace, I've forgiven my fiancee for the things that she did to hurt me and have asked for forgiveness for the things that I did to hurt her. She's still a great girl, and we've reached a point of peace. God has truly shown His faithfulness to me, and for that I'm grateful.
The beginning of my ministry had its trials and tribulations which you can read about on the rest of this blog, or listen to on the podcast at www.firstchristianculpeper.com. The one BIG thing to hear about is that I suggested and implemented a “Campaign of Kindness” at my church. I challenged my church of about 20 people to do 2500 acts of kindness in 6 months. I'm not sure whether or not we'll reach that goal, but I think it's pretty clear that even a little church can do great things. Our most recent project came on Christmas Eve when we sought out those who had to work and spend time away from their families. We took time with our families to spread Christmas cheer to them in the form of tasty desserts. My family alone served somewhere in the vicinity of 80-100 people with cookies, and the rest of the church rose to the challenge as well. It was such a blessing to look at the reactions of the people who work in the service industries when they were the ones being served. For more information on the Campaign of Kindness, check out the article that made the local paper (click), and for more information about our Christmas Eve service project, click here.
My church still has a long way to go, but the people are wonderful and really seem to be getting excited for a new direction. We've recently purchased an LCD projector, so I have a new toy to play with. I feel that God is moving in this church, but I'm not going to pretend to understand exactly what He has in store for us.
As for my personal life in Virginia, I participate in two games nights and have been spending a lot of time talking with friends in Pennsylvania, as well as trying to meet various people in Virginia. I live in a basement apartment in a home with a very fun family who live upstairs. I have the Big Ten Network now, so I can still follow Penn State sports as well!
If you ever feel inclined to come visit Virginia, I would love to see you! Virginia is a beautiful state (which you'll have plenty of time to enjoy as Virginia drivers tend to go 10 miles an hour under the speed limit at all times). Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail to let me know you're coming!
I feel like I've put you all through enough at this point, so let me make that bullet list I promised everyone else:
BULLET LIST (you can start reading again)
Student teaching was hard, but it went well
Graduated from Penn State with a degree in Secondary Education-- English and Communications
Went through a breakup, but am at peace about it
Got a job as a preacher in Culpeper, Virginia and am enjoying it!
Would love to host visitors!
And so that's it! Feel free to pass this on to whoever might be interested in it. You can leave comments on the blog, or you can e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I want to thank those of you who have shown how much you care about me. 2010 was not my favorite year of my life so far, but it's a year when I'll always remember my friends and family who helped me through some really rough patches and helped me to grow into a stronger Christian, person, and preacher. I don't know what 2011 holds, but I feel very confident in moving forward with such a great support system behind me. Thank you.