This will be the third time I’ve moved over 2000 miles in my life. The first time was simple. A duffle bag, my Bible, and a one way ticket to the island of Hawaii where God showed up and reminded me that he is my loving Father. It was a season when my life was shattered, and I desperately needed to rest in the presence of God. I was a bit like Elijah going to look for God somewhere, anywhere, because I needed him so desperately. But like C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, God was with me all along.
The second move was back to California in pursuit of the beautiful future Mrs. Tirona. She turned out to be worth the move plus 10,000 more. Anyone that knew me in Hawaii knows that it took a miracle to pull me away from the place Jesus healed my broken heart and began to piece me back together.
Now, in two weeks, I will end my season in California and make the long trek across the USA to the land of gators, manatees, Disney World, and Sunset Bay Chapel. I can’t honestly put my finger on why this move makes sense other than the call of God. I know what some of you are thinking, “How can you know the call of God?” It’s not magic, I can tell you that. It starts with a curiosity of where God might lead you to live for Him on the ever moving mission of making disciples. For me it was a call to lead a church family in the pursuit of living for Jesus everyday. Then pieces began to fall in place.
I prayed. Amy Prayed. [Yes, that’s the smoking hot Mrs. Tirona and mother to my kids.]
We find a small suburban church in Florida whose Senior Pastor is Retiring. It turns out he worked in ministry with my Father in Law back in the 70’s. Thank you facebook for making that connection known.
I send in my resume.
Then on the way to a Pastor’s Retreat at Hume Lake Christian Camps I call the retiring pastor to hear his thoughts. After 45 minutes or so I realize this Florida Chapel actually sounds rad. Humble people. Heart for the broken. Authentic relationships. Worship driven. A fun loving church Family. “Ok God, I’ll bite.”
Two days into the retreat my wife, unbeknownst to me, sneaks into the back of my journal and writes this…
… I found it later even though Amy hadn’t planned on telling me. In case you’re wondering, Amy doesn’t do this kind of stuff. Actually, I don’t recall her ever doing something like this. By the time I found the secret note Sunset Bay Chapel was over 400 resumes deep so I left this weird scribble and a handful of conversations with my pastor friends up to God. Then…
400 became 100.
100 became 20.
20 became 9.
9 became 4.
4 became 3.
And then there was me.
After questions and interviews… and more questions and more interviews… I began to believe my wife’s scribble. My friends and mentors were affirming the call and encouraging me to pursue at full steam. For those who don’t know me personally, full steam is my usual modus operandi. Not that I needed much encouragement, the chance to preach the gospel of Jesus and teach the Bible every week, sign me up!
Then the call came, “We voted, you’re the one…”
Tears. Joy. Fears. Excitement. Wonder. Planning. Disbelief. Belief. Hope. Thankfulness. Desire. My heart burst like Ol’ Faithful of emotional explosion. My neighbors probably wondered why I was crying, laughing, smiling, jumping, and literally skipping up and down 3rd street in my basketball shorts and pajama shirt that says, “Jesus loves this guy”
And then there was peace. Peace knowing that every trial to come was soaked in prayer. Peace knowing that friends, family, coworkers, and a diligent search committee had my back. Peace knowing that no matter what comes in the future [and stuff will come] God is my loving dad and will not leave me or forsake me.
This Easter on April 5th, 2015 I will preach my first official sermon as the Senior Pastor of Sunset Bay Chapel. I’ve had a few life verses over the years, but over the past few weeks I’ve taken great joy in this one,
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong… – 1 Corinthians 1:27
So why would I move over 2000 miles? Easy, because God’s finger has been pointing the way since I was a brash baby Christian fumbling through the gospel for the first time. He’s carried me through ministry failures and humbled my ministry ego success. He chose weak Ryan to make much of Jesus, the true strong. I go because at one point I thought I was worthless, but He said, “Your worth is in my Son.” I go because he tells me to go, make disciples…
God, I love you. Your guiding Spirit blows my mind. I will gladly go wherever you take me. Come life or death. All glory to Jesus.