As I look back on our time at BSSM, I realize that the vast majority of you aren’t even aware of the basic rhythms that have governed our lives this year. Allow me to use this post to share some of those details:
Our school schedule revolved around a steady hub of large-group (1300 people) sessions Monday-Thursday, 12:00-3:45 PM. That block of time was a blend of school-wide prayer (30 mins), a class/presentation (75-90 mins), worship (45-60 mins), and another class/presentation (whatever time remained). More of these days than I can count were exceptional — intellectually stimulating, emotionally stirring, and spiritually challenging. Many a day, Shannon and I walked to the van together at the end, with one of us feeling compelled to say, “So how was that day for you?” The other would simply reply, “I’m going to need some time before answering. Can we just be quiet together for now?” And the first would reply with a nod of unspoken and relieved agreement. 🙂
On top of that basic flow of schedule, these pieces also existed:
Monday: Small Groups met 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Shannon was in a group of five women, and I was in a group of four men. (All of these groups were comprised of people from our RG — that will make sense a bit further down the page.) At the beginning of the year, every group member was assigned to lead their Small Group once, after which the group “elected” one of their members to lead for the rest of the year. Both of us held our leaders and groups in high regard. Both of our groups also had to battle through experiences of misunderstanding or disagreement. I simply say that as a word of encouragement that any relationship worth nurturing will have rough patches. If you’ve ever been a Small Group that felt less-than-glorious, then yay! You were experiencing the real thing — working to see broken lives redeemed, yours and others’, in the sacred space that can only be created by genuine relationships. Those times of rubbing? Those are the perfect opportunities for the most significant growth. We are wise not to waste them by clamming up or chickening out or moving on.
Tuesday: This was our day for “elective courses”, with every student adding a 90-minute session to either his/her morning or afternoon. Each student was permitted four different selections throughout the course of the year, and each course ran for five weeks. Through the year, I had opportunity to be involved in these classes:
Union with God: This was something of a Christian history class, with special focus on some well-known and unknown mystics. I’ve long loved that stuff, but this was likely my least impacting class of the year.
The Writer’s Eye: This is the first “creative writing” course I’ve ever taken. Each week we were given different assignments to awaken our creativity and push us to compose pieces of different genres and flavours. Then we’d share them and receive feedback. I found it to be a fair bit of fun. 🙂
Growing in Intimacy through Prayer: This course was led by Leslie Crandall, a woman that I greatly appreciated throughout the course of the year. I would be among those Christians who desire their prayer lives to be “better”. This class was designed to help; I think it did, though I still have plenty of room for growth.
Preaching: This was a class I waited for. Space was limited for all of these classes, and the online sign-up process could be fairly intense once it opened. I was grateful for the chance to study under Dann Farrelly, our primary Bible teacher for the year — one of the finest Bible teachers I’ve had anywhere. And I’ve had a lot of great ones! The class aimed to provide every student a chance to present a short sermon and then to receive feedback from classmates. While I completely appreciate that goal, this particular student would have happily forgone that opportunity for more instruction and discussion on the subject of preaching. Still well worth the choice.
Wednesday: This was the morning when our Revival Group (RG) met each week for a ninety-minute gathering. Our RG was led by a Revival Group Pastor (RGP) Katrina and her six interns (3rd Year students). This was an extraordinary and special group of people — many of whom I will remember fondly many years down the road. Honestly, I considered RG my highlight most weeks. I’d have had to been near death to ever miss a Wednesday! The group was comprised of sixty-three people plus the seven leaders mentioned above, and no two meetings were ever the same. However, the tone of the group was consistently warm and welcoming, safe and stretching, affirming and challenging. Openness and vulnerability were modelled and called forth. I recall one meeting early in the year where our RGP shared her story with noteworthy grace and honesty. Group members were then invited to share in response, as they felt led. As stories poured forth recounting abuse, addiction, pornography, cutting, depression, same-sex attraction, and more battles that were being waged by those in the room, I remember thinking, “Okay. This is for real. We are putting our cards down with one another and seeking healing and freedom for one another. Let’s go!” Other weeks ranged from joyful silliness to sweet worship to intense prayer to risk-filled sharing to peaceful rest to more! Tears, hugs, and laughter were steadily present, and I confess already: If I miss any facet of BSSM today or in the future, it may well be RG. It was a precious group to be a part of, to be sure. Here’s a photo from our last meeting. Shannon and I are in the top-left corner.
Thursday: Every BSSM student was signed up for some form of City Service. These were ministries and efforts aimed at blessing the city of Redding in a host of ways. Every Thursday afternoon, I rushed from class a sliver early to get to my City Service.
For the first half of the year, I was part of a Treasure-Hunting team. I had heard of such a “game” years ago, and my curiosity overpowered my fear to sign up. What’s Treasure-Hunting? In short, it is this: A team of six to eight of us would spend a few minutes in listening prayer. We’d basically ask God, “Show us who you want us to bless today. Give us some clues about the ‘treasure’ that you wish us to find today.” Then each member would quickly write down any “clues” he/she was perceiving. These could be anything: Names of people, details of appearances, locations in town, body parts needing healing, along with any random words/images/details. We’d then share our lists and work quite quickly to discern any patterns in what we’d written. We’d set off for a hinted-at destination and proceed to fan out in pairs “looking for clues”. If we found someone, we’d quietly pray and kindly approach, trusting that God had set up the meeting in the first place. Over twelve-plus weeks, we offered comfort and encouragement to dozens of strangers, saw a number of healings occur, and led some folks toward decisions of commitment or recommitment to Jesus. We also got rebuffed outrightly and not-so-subtly dodged more times than one could count. We battled inner fear more than I’d wish to admit (let’s say nearly every single time), and persisted in showing up again next week to keep learning about prayer and trust and listening and loving. I was grateful to be part of this experience, even when I wasn’t. 🙂
For the second part of the year, I was part of a team that did “yard work” for a beautiful park area in Redding. I thoroughly enjoyed the team I worked with, and the physical labour was a welcome change during what was likely my most exercise-deprived year of life. However, children’s schedules, sicknesses, travel, and the occasional need to trade in an absence for some “breathing space” led me to be about half-regular in this effort.
Evenings: Nearly all weekday evenings were spent doing homework after we tucked in the kids. I’ve done six years of post-secondary education, along with several courses on top of that. I love learning, and school suits me well. But suffice it to say, I was surprised by the homework load. It wasn’t wildly academic: No exams or research papers. But lots of reading and writing, much of which was far more heart-level than the average course of study. Soul-searching isn’t fast or light.
Friday: This was a no-school day each week for the two of us and our preschooler. Most weeks saw us split the day into shifts with each of us spending some one-on-one with a fun four-year-old, while the other rested or read or whatever.
Saturday: Our primary family day typically saw us around home, where kids played with friends and adults did all those keep-your-life-working-well tasks that need doing at some point. We travelled less than we thought we might, rarely venturing more than twenty minutes from town.
Sunday: Every BSSM student was assigned to one of Bethel’s eight services each weekend. We had ID cards that we had to swipe at school each day to track our attendance; those were used to track church attendance too! As a family with kids, we were granted some stability to attend the same one all year, rather than rotating through different times/locations. So every Sunday, we’d head to Twin View (the smaller Bethel campus, not the one you’d ever see featured on online videos) for 11:30 AM. Many afternoons were spent picnicking or visiting with friends at a local park or lake, where kids could busy themselves and adults could chat. Then we buckled up to do it all again the next morning.
This post has been largely logistics. For those who were curious, now you know. For those wishing for deeper details, they’re coming. If you’re wondering something specific, leave a comment and ask a question: If I see a potential post as a possible reply, I’ll go for it. Otherwise, I’ll use upcoming posts to press into more personal reflections from the year, as they come to my mind.
Much love to you all. Thanks for every bit of support and encouragement and care that you’ve sent our way this year.