It’s a cool, damp day here in the mountain village, a perfect day to stay indoors and do a little blogging.
The last few months have brought forth some interesting fruit, especially in the the general area of discernment. We moved out to the village in March, leaving the large metropolis behind. We said goodbye to friends and family; goodbye to doctors, banks, the gym; goodbye to the eyeglasses store down the street, along with the grocery stores and warehouse clubs, also down the street.
The mountain village sits in a little valley in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. It’s in the sparsest populated county of Northern California, with not one stoplight to be found in the entire county. It is a place where the wildlife population vastly outnumbers the human population, and so when one walks outside, the birds don’t just fly off, nor do the deer suddenly turn tail and run. In a way, this is a sort of place where Rodney King’s plea has become a part of daily life in the village ecosystem: people and critters mostly all just get along. An acquaintance recently told me about a hummingbird stopping to get a drink of water from her watering hose, while she was holding it and watering her yard. A bit freakish, but not too over the top in this part of the world.
We came at the invitation of a relative who runs a uniquely historic place that once used to be a stagecoach inn back in the 19th century. The history endures and it surrounds you as you walk through the front door of this place that now operates as a bar, restaurant and hotel (mini-hotel, given the 5 rooms equipped for overnight accommodation). The offer was to come and work at the place and to help guide it into a new future of profitability. When the offer first came, we heard how booming the business was becoming. The winter fishing season for steelhead salmon was in high gear and there seemed to be wonderful opportunities to come and lend some elbow grease and creativity in helping that business keep on flourishing. It sounded good, especially since this news came while I was feeling like I’d been stuck in some version of the Sargasso Sea with my career in ministry.
I was well aware of the risks, but decided that this was worth a shot. I figured that at least I’d be able to return to some of my work in media and publicity, and maybe go back to doing some live audio for bands that might play at the place on the weekends.
Well, it’s been about 4 months now, and it has seemed as if most of that time has been spent dealing with one frustration after another. The Bay area tourist-fisherfolk stopped coming at the end of the steel head season. The restaurant menu is heavily weighted toward such tourist folks, who would think nothing at all of dropping bigger bucks on prime rib and steak dinners. After some discussion, a few non-beef chicken and fish items were added to the menu, but we’ve not ever had the supply of chicken to actually serve. As for the poor vegetarians that might wander in looking for a meal, about the best we’ve been able to do for them is to combine a couple of side salads to make a “chef salad.” Most of the suggestions made to change these things and to make the menu more attractive to local people looking to pay less for a meal have been almost completely ignored. What is just as grating has been the “I know my business way better than you do” mentality that has kept the ineptitude in place in the face of almost non-existent business. Since Memorial Day, business has picked up a bit, but only to the degree that the restaurant has made just a little bit of money on only a few occasions. Otherwise it has been a huge loss.
My overall assessment is about the same as the one offered by Sgt. Gunny Highway in “Heartbreak Ridge,” who found himself at the mercy of inept and egotistical leadership who insisted upon blind obedience to their own willful stupidity:
The silver lining in all this is that I’ve been asked to interview for pastor positions in several locations throughout the country. One invitation to visit and interview at a place in the Southwest came just as we’d finished unpacking our boxes. I thought that position would work out, despite its somewhat foreboding setting in the heart of Tornado Alley. As we drove around the town I couldn’t help but notice the skeletal building remains and large piles of tree branches and fencing caused by a tornado that had blown in less than a week before. I thought we hit it off well, and made a solid connection in my time there, but after three weeks I finally called and discovered they weren’t going to call me. Once I got over the ego punch, I realized that they had probably made a good decision for both of us.
While they decided to go with someone else, I found the experience had re-kindled my passion for pastoral ministry and the awareness that God and the church had called me into that ministry for some pretty good reasons.
I’ve had a Skype interview with another church and just completed a visit to a wonderful congregation doing exceptional ministry in the Midwest.
Now I wait to hear word on the Midwestern congregation as I go about my business here, trying to eak out some sort of living in a business that has become more albatross than opportunity. It is frustrating, but I learned something during my last interview experience that I aim to apply here shortly. I’ll say more about this in my next post.