Category Archives: Community

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.



Filed under Community, Education, General, Spirituality

Why virtual school makes sense

This year marked a milestone in my oldest son’s academic career and well as my thinking about public education. We enrolled our Jr High age son in 8th grade of a virtual school, choosing to rebuff the traditional brick and mortar school. Virtual school is distinct from homeschooling in many ways. Virtual school provides teachers, curriculum, and the learning platform for the student. The parents provide support and accountability that the student is progressing in the content at an appropriate pace. The synergy between the parents and teachers creates a good learning situation for most students. Another distinction from traditional homeschooling is the accountability of the student to the public school system. Virtual school is an extension of the state public education system. Therefore the students are required to take the math and writing skills tests along with the brick and mortar students throughout the state public school system. The virtual school, same as many homeschoolers, provide opportunities for students to participate in group science lab projects and field trips.

One might ask why not a Christian school? First, as a product of a Christian school, I am very sensitive to the bubble mentality that can develop in Christian education. Many Christian schools fool themselves by thinking they are delivering a quality educational product in providing a Christian environment in which to learn. However, many of these schools fail to understand that the word “school” in their name assumes that necessary steps have been taken to assure quality education is happening. This is not the case in many places, a cursory glance at many Christian school websites reveal teachers teaching outside their discipline and without the minimum qualifications to teach in a public school. This handicaps the students from getting the best math, science and other disciplines that prepare them for the next level of their education. The lack of quality education can be remedied, but the more dangerous part for me was the bubble created by the Christian school movement. I believe that the lack of exposure to the world, has created a fear of the world for many graduates of Christian education. The Christian school environment’s bubble shields students from objections to Christianity such as atheism and evolutionary naturalism. In thinking this is a positive move, parents may be inhibiting their children’s ability interact with opposing views prevalent in culture. I trust firmly in I John 4:4 which states, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” In believing this verse, I am willing to place my children in an environment where questions are asked on them and by extension they ask questions to me. The process enhances faith; it does not debilitate it. There are answers to the skeptic’s questions and assertions, we as believers, must do to hard work to answer them and provide answers for our children’s questions. I recognize that there are fine Christian schools that do not fit the characterization above in neither the bubble mentality nor the educational deficiencies. I applaud your endeavors to bear Christ’s name in a way that illustrates his excellence. Second, let’s be honest, the cost of educating three children in a quality Christian school environment cannot happen on a Christian college professor’s salary.

The virtual school seemed to be the right fit to allow interaction with evolutionary naturalism and worldviews hostile to Christian thought while increasing the quality of education that is receding from the brick and mortar public school system. Since the curriculum requires the same learning objectives as the brick and mortar public school, most of the content remains similar. Because of this, most of our conversations about worldviews and propositions asserted in the curriculum remain in tact. However, the educational environment or setting changed dramatically. In my son’s case, the middle school became more about managing the problem children than educating the ones willing to learn. The learning environment had truly become hostile to learning mainly because of classroom distractions. Virtual school takes place in our home and in my office at the college. This quiet environment is conducive to learning. When learning new concepts that require assistance, help remains within reach. He can ask a parent or phone the teacher at any time. With the virtual school, conversations still take place about issues and proposals that oppose Christian thinking, but my son isn’t taking tests with paper projectiles flying across the room or trying to listen with an iPod is playing the latest from Hopsin.

There are other reasons for considering if the brick and mortar public school is the best educational option, but they wait for the next pause in my day…

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Libreral Education

In the face of current trends that emphasize getting a diploma over getting an education, this article sums up well the importance of a liberal arts education over other approaches. The author states, “This individual is likely to be a productive contributor to the organizations he or she joins later in life; he or she is likely to be an engaged citizen and a moral person; and he or she is more likely to embody the qualities of respect and civility that are crucial for collaboration and public life.”

Understanding Society

One of the most fundamental and distinctive aspects of the American approach to undergraduate education is the priority given to making sure that students receive a broad “liberal education.”  What this phrase means has nothing to do with “liberal politics”; instead, it is a theory of education that holds that the undergraduate student needs to be exposed to a wide range of ideas and perspectives from all the liberal arts: the humanities, history, mathematics, the natural sciences, and the social and behavioral sciences.  The student is required to take a broad range of courses that provide exposure in all of these areas.  He or she also has a major subject – an area of greater specialization; but the course work in the major discipline is usually only about twenty-five percent of all courses.  So the American system usually emphasizes breadth as an important academic value, and specialization in a discipline…

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Filed under Community, online education, traditional college class

People of Second Chance.

Good Summary of outside observations, when one helps those most in need: “Of course, the harsh contrast between our culture and the “scandalous” grace POTSC promotes often “results in uncomfortable confrontations with ways of thinking, assumptions about people groups, and even deeply-held personal beliefs. This may put people on edge, since radical grace can be painful in the face of a society that often encourages victimhood, revenge, and apathy,”

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But A Passing Moment – Nolan Price

“…my flesh that tells me that there are people who I feel just don’t deserve to die so suddenly, men who I see changing the world, men that have made the world a better place just by being put here on this earth, men like Nolan. But deep down the shaming truth that starts to sting my eyes is that we all have deserved death and it is the Lord’s intervening daily grace that atones for us all.”

Prayers to the Price family in the loss of their son. A tribute well-said by a fellow student ~Thanks Brittney

Faithfully Nomadic

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Reblog: How the “Like” Button Will Destroy the World

This is a well-written post about social media in our life. Refreshingly, the author doesn’t just take the easy road, “piling on” the social media advancement. In fact, the author concludes, The solution to this problem isn’t a departure from social media. Far from it! I firmly believe that these tools we have available to us via the Internet can do more to advance society and advance personal connections than anything else. BUT — and this is a big but — we must be sure to use these tools effectively. We must be sure that we don’t forget the “social” part of “social media.”


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Cross-Cultural Servanthood, Part 2: Openness—Welcoming others into your presence

Keri Williams concludes her review of Duane Elmer’s book, summarizing some good thoughts on hospitality.

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