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Our New Home, Riverpark Apartments, Redmond, just a hop, skip and throw from Sunnyshore Studio

Today we heard that our application has been accepted at Riverpark in Redmond. We will be apartment dwellers, at least for the first year, in Redmond.

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We choose Riverpark for its location. It is right next to the Hyatt Hotel where Redeemer Redmond worships. Besides living and worshipping in the same place, we can’t wait to have our first visitors from Indy stay at the Hyatt next door to us.

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Riverpark is also next to the Sammamish River, and a great biking and walking trail called the Sammamish River Trail. I’ve even heard that salmon spawn up this river. And I’m looking forward to that glorious sight.

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Just a few minutes walk from Riverpark is Marymore Park which is King County’s most popular park. More than 3 million people visit annually “to explore Marymoor’s 640 acres of recreational amenities”.

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Of course, moving from a 3 floor Victorian home with a full basement to a 1,485 sq. foot, 2 bedroom + loft apartment means significant downsizing.

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Jenny reminds me that each of the floors of our current home is the same size as our entire Redmond apartment! But we are willing, even excited, to do this because of the strategic opportunity to be in an apartment complex with over 300 other apartments and apartment dwellers. We are excited to be part of the weaving of community in Riverpark.Plus what we give up in home size, we gain in fun amenities which we intend to make the most of including large community room, movie room, rec center, and hot tub (just outside our apartment!).

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And, last but not least, Riverpark is just a hop, skip and throw, a mere hours drive, from my beloved Camano Island, the home of my childhood,and the future home of Sunnyshore Studio.

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Tis the Season for picking wild blackberries on Camano

July is the season for picking wild blackberries on Camano Island.

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July 2014 was an excellent year for wild blackberries on the south end of Camano. Dad stumbled upon the mother lode of wild blackberries on some land south of their house that had been logged a few years ago. He picked 20 gallons.  Mom and dad froze them. They will make their way into about 40 delicious blackberry pies.

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My dad is a master blackberry picker. When I was a boy he taught me the art of blackberry picking, which can be summed up as follows.

First, you must have the right tools.

The most important tool is a gallon pail with a home made wire handle that swings back and forth. This is important because blackberries grow best on terrain that has been logged, rugged terrain, with thickets, nettles, and hidden logs and holes to stumble over. In attempting to get to the best patches the blackberry picker will often have to leap from logs into thickets and brambles not knowing what danger below awaits him. This inevitably results in a good blackberry picker taking one or two stumbles, even falls. The swinging blackberry pail handle allows a picker to fall and yet keep the pale full of blackberries from spilling. I have fallen face first and even rolled, all the while keeping the precious pail of blackberries securely guarded. They are, of course, much more precious than the blackberry picker.

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(My blackberry pail I used this summer was not quite a gallon pail because I was working back to my old form and wanted to start small)

A second important tool is a machete or stick by which to whack nettles out of a way, to make a path through brambles, and to push aside the blackberry vines itself so that you can reach in and pick the ripe blackberries. It is important to point out that one should not expect to pick blackberries all day and not be covered with cuts, scratches, bruises, stings and embedded thorns.

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Second, you must be silent when you are picking blackberries

Blackberry pickers are more fiercely secretive than even fisherman. If you find a good patch of blackberries it is imperative that you keep this patch to yourself. It must be guarded, just like a fisherman guards his secret fishing hole. This requires great discipline. A young boy who has just leapt off a log into a thicket and tumbled face first into nettles must never let out a yell, or shriek, or even a sound of dismay. The only allowance to this rule is if you happen to smash into a hornets nest, then you are allowed to may a small yelp as you run, mainly to warn one’s dad of the impending danger.

Another time that a youngster is allowed to make some noise is if he discovers a specially abundant patch of blackberries, blackberries big and ripe and falling into the hands. Even then the boy or girl is not allowed to yell “Dad, come here, hurry”. Instead, he or she is to make a sound like an eagle cry, which for whatever reason is better than a human voice, and which hopefully the father will recognize as his own child’s. Picking blackberries with dad empowered me to develop a rich vocabulary of eagle and other bird cries which I expect will come in handy some day.

Last July I had a reunion of sorts picking blackberries with Dad

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I spent last July on Camano Island and one day I picked blackberries with dad at his secret mother lode. I found that I had not lost any of my old form, the artistry of blackberry picking. I stumbled but kept every precious blackberry in my bucket. I only let out one whoop and holler to call dad, and hearing his growl “be quiet” quickly reverted back to my eagle cries. But I must confess that I only picked one bucket compared to the two dad picked, and I only picked for one day, while dad went back day after day. But that one day of picking blackberries with dad was special, a day I will never forget, ushering me back into days long ago.

As an emerging expert blackberry picker myself, I would be happy to share my artistry with any friends who are crazy enough to try.

Big News: We are moving to Redmond, WA

This Sunday I shared with my beloved congregation that I had accepted the call to be the pastor of a presbyterian church in Redmond, WA, also named Redeemer.

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My dad grew up on a farm about three miles from Redmond. The fifty acre farm he grew up on is now part of the Microsoft complex.

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Dad went thru Redmond Elementary (grades 1-6) and Jr. High School (grades 7-9), and then attended Lake Washington High School for the 10th and 11th grade. He remembers walking the seven miles home from school after baseball practice in Kirkland. He remembers his Dad taking him fishing on Lake Sammamish.

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They would dock on the west side of the lake, then row to the east side to fish. Dad shot his first duck on Lake Sammamish and he remembers a annual bicycle race around the lake, and how little hydroplanes used to race up the curvy Sammamish slough.

So in a way, I am coming home, back to my roots. My aunt Joann and cousin Beckie live in Kirkland, just down the road from Redmond. When I visited them in January I took this picture from their condo and admired their marvelous collection of my dad’s artwork.

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At the same time we’re leaving home. Indy has become home to us.

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It hurts so bad to say goodbye to our spiritual family here, to our dear friends in the city and in the Indianapolis Public Schools.

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Here is a letter that I wrote to my Redeemer Indy family that shares more of the story.

Dear Redeemer Spiritual Family,

As I write this letter my eyes overflow with tears, tears that flow from my heart that loves you deeply. Over the past 13 years I have never wavered in my commitment to you, to the oaths I took to be your shepherd, nor doubted my call to be your pastor. By God’s grace our lives have been interwoven in community and in service to the city we love. And I have been powerfully shaped by the impact of your lives on mine.

In this letter I want to share with you about the tectonic plates that have shifted in my life.  I find myself surprised, and incredibly sad, to share the news with you that over the last couple of weeks God has been moving, changing and shaping my call in ways I find hard to understand.  In short, I have accepted a call to be pastor of Redeemer Church, Redmond, WA. I am convinced this is God’s calling. I also want to encourage you on a path to process this. Finally, I want to lay out a timetable for our family’s move.

Tectonic Plates and God’s Calling

In February 2002, when I accepted the call to be pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church, Jenny and I, and our family were clear that God was calling us to Redeemer and Indianapolis, to put our shoulder to the plow with our brothers and sisters in Indy. Even though our families live on the west coast, we burned our bridges. We had no plan to return, and we assumed that we would live the rest of our lives and die in Indy. From the beginning, this put our ministry on the edge; we were going for it, we were all in.

And from the time I accepted the call to Redeemer Indy I never looked up from the plow. There hasn’t been a day that I did not find great joy in my work of sharing the gospel of God’s grace, raising up leaders, forming a community of the gospel, and participating in the suffering and healing of our city. Serving as the lead pastor at Redeemer has been one of the greatest honors and joys of my life. It has been made sweeter to serve alongside the other leaders shoulder to shoulder, my brothers and sisters, who have walked with me, worked alongside of me, borne with my brokenness, and rejoiced in my strengths.

Then on January 8thof this year, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This rocked my world. Immediately I thought “I might need to get close to Mom and Dad so that I can help them in their hour of need.” That same day I called my brother Jed, who many of you know is a Staff Leader with Young Life at Arsenal Tech. He said to me, “Jay, I have had just the opposite thought: that mom has prayed for me to be settled in my calling, and I believe my calling is here with the kids at Tech. I know the right thing for me is to be here in Indy, here at Tech.”

For me, my mom’s diagnosis was the first time that I lifted up my eyes from the plow. The first time that I even considered being open to another call that God might have for me.

In December of 2014, I learned that my mentor in Seattle, Rev. Michael Kelly, was filling the pulpit of a church in Redmond, WA, also called Redeemer, whose pastor had taken another call.  At the time I didn’t think anything of it.

After my mom’s diagnosis, it struck me that this might be a potential pastoral position that would be close to my parents (1 ½ hours). But I didn’t follow up with it. In April, I received an e-mail from another pastor from Florida. In it, among other things, he mentioned the pastoral opening in Seattle. I thought to myself, I at least need to look into this. So I called the chair of the pulpit committee and found out that there was just one more week in which they were taking applications. I quickly put my paperwork together and sent it in. At the end of April I was told that the search committee wanted to interview me via skype. A week or so after that interview, I was informed that I was their top candidate and arrangements were made for Jenny and I to visit. On June 18th – 22nd Jenny, Jackie and I flew to Seattle, met with the congregation, and got a feel for Redmond.

Redeemer Redmond was planted about ten years ago, and has been a particular congregation (with its own elders) for 6 years. It had grown to about 125 people, but currently has about 70 people in the congregation. They do not have a building and are currently leasing space in a hotel conference room.  They have one part time staff who is the worship leader.

On Sunday, June 28th, Redeemer Redmond’s congregation voted to extend a call to me, and I’ve accepted that call. My heart and my eyes overflow with tears at the thought of saying goodbye, of the thought on no longer walking and working with you as I have been privileged to do these past 13 years.

Processing together

Let me walk you through some thoughts on how to process with us.

First, I would encourage you to be confident in God’s call. I believe God’s hand is in this, that God is calling us. This gives me a great sense of courage and confidence, in spite of the fact that I am leaving some of my dearest friends, and my life-work behind. I also believe that God will call to Redeemer Presbyterian in Indy the pastor he wants to lead you in this new chapter.

Second, I want you to be absolutely clear that our brothers and sisters, the leaders at Redeemer Indy, have clearly and unanimously said to us that they do not want us to go, that they desire for us to stay. On June 2nd I shared with the elders the process that Jenny and I were in and asked them for their counsel. Over the next couple of days Jenny talked personally to their wives. They have asked hard questions, communicated their strong desire for us to stay, but also released us if this is God’s call on our life.

Third, I want you to mourn and grieve with me. The tears I feel, my heart being ripped out at the thought of not being with you for decades to come is real. I don’t know why God’s call has come at this time in this way. But I know that His call has a cost. It hurts, at the deepest level. And it helps me to know your heart as well, to hold you and cry with you. This communicates to me that our love is real, that the bond we have in Christ has impacted our lives. So I encourage you to feel free to grieve, to mourn, to ask hard questions, to even flail around a bit. I will not hold that against you. I’ve done a good share of weeping, flailing myself. By God’s grace, I will receive it as part of our journey together.

Timeline

Our timeline looks like this. I will be working and preaching the first two Sunday of July. The last two weeks of July I will take vacation to oversee the logistics of selling our house, moving, etc.

I look forward to preaching each week in August. I view these five sermons as something like my last “five words” to my spiritual family in Indianapolis.

On August 20th we will drop Jacob off at Purdue. On August 25th we will drop Julian off at George Mason. School starts in the Redmond School District on September 1st, so somehow Jenny, Judah and Jackie will be in Redmond for the start of school.

I expect that there will times for us to get together to grieve, mourn and celebrate.  I’ll let you know the details of that as they get nailed down.

Conclusion

My Heavenly Father has used you in my life to powerfully shape me. I owe a debt to the Redeemer congregation, Indianapolis, and IPS that I will never be able to repay. Thank you for your presence in my life. I love you. I look forward to the Heavenly Jerusalem where there will be no death, and where God will wipe away all of our tears.

Grace, Jason