My 12 month (and counting) Journey Through the Wilderness

image10Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the closing of Clearwater Christian College. The board lacked the courage to continue operations and lost the vision of the college’s founder, Arthur Steele, to see a liberal arts Christian college that would impact the greater Tampa Bay Area and beyond. The result scattered thee hundred and fifty students and left over sixty faculty and staff without employment.

Throughout these past twelve months, I have said little publicly about it mainly because the abrupt ending and severe casualties created by the decision left me bewildered. My wife, Julianne’s joblessness overlapped my first three months of unemployment. We had little time to think about much beyond financial survival. Many of my co-workers, like myself, found ourselves in a wilderness asking questions, listening to insufficient answers to our situation, mourning the death of the college that we loved so much. In September after the closure, I took to bike riding several times a week partially to work through the CCC event and try to understand what God is doing. My rides were sometimes with friends and sometimes alone, but always in Starkey Wilderness Park. I felt drawn to this location because of my own wilderness in which I found myself. After twelve months, I still have little to say about what happened to bring about the closure, but I have learned many things through my journey in the wilderness. Here are a few:

I experienced inconsolable pain of loss and found the hope of the gospel to be a balm. Reflecting on Christ and his work for me has provided so much comfort this year. There have been many dark moments this year. In those moments, I have tried to focus on what Christ did to reconcile those who are believing in his work -his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his ruling at the right hand of the Father. When I rejected the notion that my own situation was unrepairable, it was because I realized in reflecting on Christ that nothing is beyond this divine work. I hoped in his completed work to see me through.

I experienced the silence of the church when I needed them to speak truth to me. Times during this past year I needed to hear from the church, I heard nothing except questions and data inquiry. Trite sayings about God’s sovereignty were followed by questions about CCC’s closing that made the pain press in on me. I’m sure these moments were unintentional and out of a pure heart, but I most wanted them to sit in silence with me or read healing truth of scripture to me.

I experienced the care of church friends in moments I needed it most. This may sound contradictory to the statement above, but it is not. In the three years I have been attending my current church, God has provided me friendship with several men in the church. Particularly in the initial stages of the journey, without perhaps their realization, God allowed these men to minister to me in ways they still do not know.It seemed when I was in very dark places spiritually, they would call, inviting me to lunch. I remember sitting at lunch with them one time and thinking they have no idea how dark of a place their friendship rescued me from by a simple gesture of kindness. They would talk to me about scripture, they would encourage me, remind me they were praying for me and my family, and ask how they could help.

I experienced the power of hearing the scriptures read to me. This was powerful for me because I realized the Spirit was guiding other believers to read what I needed in that moment. I was not trying to find something for me, I was being ministered to by the Holy Spirit through other friends and family who were also trusting in Jesus. My wife did this often for me. I can’t begin to tell you how this impacted my view of the situation.

I experienced how to listen for the comforting voice of the Holy Spirit. I have spent a significant amount of my time sitting in silence, driving in silence or riding my bike in silence – no music, podcasts, or radio. At first I was trying to figure out what happened, but that quickly became a pointless endeavor. I began to pray that God would through the power of the Holy Spirit clear away unhelpful emotions that prohibit me from hearing from him. Through this I learned how to sit in a prayerful spirit and hear from God. I began to read and meditate on his word and ask the Holy Spirit to do His work on me.

I experienced loss which has created a greater sense of empathy for those who have suffered greater loss. The Lord blessed our family with significant employment until two years ago. Julianne lost her job one year to the date that I lost mine at CCC. By God’s grace on us, we were able to weather the storm better than some of my co-workers. However in the midst of this, God allowed us to experience gifts that we could never repay. One such gift was the private school tuition of my son’s junior year paid in full. My gratefulness cannot even be expressed in this one event, someone relieved us of the additional stress of figuring out where he would have to complete the next year of high school. There were many others too, some in help doing things others in material contributions. I now see more clearly the hurt of others around me that perhaps I could not see without this happening. I find myself praying more for those around me that I sense are experiencing pain inflicted by others.

I experienced loss of professional identity which allowed me to focus on my true identity in Christ. I am no longer a Professor of Bible at CCC. I loved that title mainly because of all the great things identified with it- teaching the Bible, mentoring students, preaching the word, etc. Now I am a “school bus driver” (SUV) for my children, domestic worker, and afternoon/night courses adjunct instructor. That is my work, not my identity. Through this year, I have been reminded through the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, that I am in Christ. I am his child, I am a son of God adopted through Christ’s work. That is enough, nothing else matters.

I experienced God turning the hearts of men to care for his children. My superiors at my current employment contacted me soon after the closure about adjunct work. They had a sense of duty to take care of me because of the abruptness and “lack of care” (their words) of the closing institution. I was and continue to be given courses well beyond what is normal for a new hire adjunct. God has provided the max number of course I can teach at this institution without becoming full-time. One of my superiors called me prior to the spring semester and told me “God is really taking care of you because this never happens.” Unbelievers confessing the true nature of God’s goodness for his people.

I experienced God’s goodness to me in the little things. Soon after the CCC’s closure, I realized my Red Sea moment might not come right away. For multiple reasons, I was not going to find the ministry opportunity that helped make sense of the CCC event. This has been a gift because through it I forced myself to start journaling ways in which God showed up in my day to day routine. Very soon in this process, I began to see Divine appointments that resulted in encouraging words. Little things, formerly interesting but thought of as insignificant now reminded me that God was with me and caring for me. This “show up” journal became encouraging reads when I would doubt the goodness of God or the greatness of my Savior.

I don’t like what has happened, I don’t understand it any more now than I did a year ago. I want to wake up from this nightmare that there is not liberal arts Christian college in the Greater Tampa Bay area. There will be no more interns from CCC being salt and light in the public schools, and local businesses. There will be no more CCC student praise and worship on the beaches that display God’s transforming work in this world. However this is what God has allowed in his good providence. I accept that and I am grateful that through it He has graciously shown me how big He really is and how much He loves those who are trusting in Him. The doors have closed, but as many of the student’s have proclaimed on social media, WE are Clearwater, the ministry that happened there does not cease to be because the halls are silent.



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The Insatiable Search for Peace and Rest

ReBlog: The Insatiable Search for Peace and Rest



Human beings were made for God (Psalm 100:3, Acts 17:26–27), but something has gone deeply wrong. Sin has cut us off from our Creator and left us out-of-sync with each other and ourselves. Under the curse of sin, we both desire God and resist Him simultaneously (see Romans 1). The consequence of this spiritual tug-of-war is that we often turn to temporal things to fulfill our desperate longings—yet genuine, lifelong meaning and purpose remain elusive and fleeting.

Three Popular Narratives of Life

As a wayward soul for the first half of his own life, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest Christian thinkers outside the New Testament, illustrates this problem by reflecting on his misspent youth:

But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in him but in myself and his other creatures, and the search led me instead to…

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Goodness of God brings about our happiness in him

Jonathan Edwards described God’s transfer of happiness to man and man’s satisfaction found in the enjoyment of God. Edwards brings together in a most concise manner, the topics of God’s aseity, happiness, goodness, and justice in Inference two of his message:

How good is God, that he has created man for this very end, to make him happy in the enjoyment of himself, the Almighty, who was happy from the days of eternity in himself, in the beholding of his own infinite beauty: the Father in the beholding and love of his Son, his perfect and most excellent image, the brightness of his own glory; and the Son in the love and enjoyment of the Father. And God needed no more, could accede no more. But yet God, who was thus happy in himself, has a natural propensity and inclination to communicate happiness to some other beings. This inclination in the nature of God is what we call goodness. And ’twas because of this inclination that he created the world, and especially that he created men and angels in it. ’Twas not that he might be made more happy himself, but that [he] might make something else happy; that3 he might make them blessed in the beholding of his excellency, and might this way glorify himself. And even the damnation of the wicked is for the manifestation of God’s justice, that he might show more of his excellency to the blessed, to their greater delight in their Godhead. Good, therefore, is God, who does such wondrous things merely from an inclination to goodness.

3 MS: “in the.”

Jonathan Edwards, “Nothing upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1723–1729 (ed. Harry S. Stout and Kenneth P. Minkema; vol. 14; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1997), 14153.

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Value of Beauty

“Beauty is not simply a value-added extra to worship, or to life; on the contrary, human beings are made for beauty, as they are for truth and goodness. Stated differently: human beings are created for fellowship with God, the one in whom the true, the good, and the beautiful are ultimately grounded and find their unity.”1

1. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Chapter 9: Praising in Song- Beauty and the Arts,” in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, ed. Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 119,

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Heaven’s praises or sad complaint?

Reading for my dissertation, I came across this work by Francis Quarles. The stanza that especially stood out to me speaks about sigh and complaints that replace praise to God. Quarles says, “The afflicted captive, that can find no peace: Thus am I cooped within this fleshly Cage, I wear my youth, and waste my weary age, Spending that breath which was ordained to chant Heaven’s praises forth, in sighs and sad complaint.” Many times I only see the things that are broken or fallen in this world instead of looking for the things that remind me of God’s continued attention and care toward those that bear his image.

Book of the Fifth, Emblem Ten
Francis Quarles

MY soul is like a bird, my flesh the cage,
Wherein she wears her weary pilgrimage
Of hours, as few as evil, daily fed
With sacred wine and sacramental bread;
The keys that lock her in and let her out,
Are birth and death; ‘twixt both she hops about
From perch to perch, from sense to reason;
then From higher reason down to sense again:
From sense she climbs to faith; where for a season
She sits and sings; then down again to reason:
From reason back to faith, and straight from thence
She rudely flutters to the perch of sense:
From sense to hope; then hops from hope to doubt,
From doubt to dull despair; there seeks about
For desperate freedom, and at every grate
She wildly thrusts, and begs the untimely date
Of unexpired thraldom, to release
The afflicted captive, that can find no peace.
Thus am I cooped; within this fleshly cage
I wear my youth, and waste my weary age;
Spending that breath, which was ordained to chant
Heav’n’s praises forth, in sighs and sad complaint:
Whilst happier birds can spread their nimble wing
From shrubs to cedars, and there chirp and sing,
In choice of raptures, the harmonious story
Of man’s redemption, and his Maker’s glory:
You glorious martyrs, you illustrious stoops,
That once were cloistered in your fleshly coops
As fast as I, what rhetoric had your tongues?
What dexterous art had your elegiac songs?
What Paul-like power had your admired devotion?
What shackle-breaking faith infused such motion
To your strong prayer, that could obtain the boon
To be enlarged; to be encaged so soon?
Whilst I, poor I, can sing my daily tears,
Grown old in bondage, and can find no ears;
You great partakers of eternal glory,
That with your Heav’n-prevailing oratory
Released your souls from your terrestrial cage,
Permit the passion of my holy rage
To recommend my sorrows, dearly known
To you, in days of old, and once your own,
To your best thoughts, (but oh ‘t doth not befit ye
To move your prayers; you love joy, not pity;
Great LORD of souls, to whom should prisoners fly
But thee? thou hast a cage as well as I;
And, for my sake, thy pleasure was to know
The sorrows that it brought, and feltest them too
O let me free, and I will spend those days,
Which now I waste in begging, in thy praise.[1]


[1] Quarles, Francis, 1592-1644; Rogers, W. Harry (William Harry), 1825-1873; Bennett, Charles H. (Charles Henry), 1829-1867. Quarles’ emblems (Kindle Locations 3435-3465). London : James Nisbet and Co.

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Sunday Reflection: Peter Abelard – on the atonement

I ran across this writing by Peter Abelard- On the Atonement in my literary travels this week. It stuck with me so I thought I would post it.

Alone thou goest forth, O Lord, in sacrifice to die;

Is this thy sorrow naught to us who pass unheeding by?

Our sins, not thine, thou bearest, Lord; make us thy sorrow feel,

Till through our pity and our shame love answers love’s appeal.

This is earth’s darkest hour, but thou dost light and life restore;

Then let all praise be given thee who livest evermore.

Grant us with thee to suffer pain that, as we share this hour,

Thy cross may bring us to thy joy and resurrection power.

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Sunday Prayer of Dependence

To thee, O Master who lovest all men, I hasten to rising from sleep; by thy mercy I go forth to do thy work, and I make my prayer to thee, help me all times and in all things; deliver me from every evil thing of this world and from pursuit by the devil; save me and bring me to thy eternal kingdom. For thou art my Creator, thou dost inspire all good thoughts in me; in thee is all my hope, and to thee I ascribe glory, now and for ever, and unto the ages of ages.[1]

[1] Eastern Orthodox, St. Macarius the Great. (St. Abba Macarius the Great (295-392 A.D.; also known as Macarius the Egyptian) was among the most influential Desert Fathers of Egypt, and a disciple of St. Anthony the Great.)

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