Category Archives: General

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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I thought these insights were interesting especially the last one. Perhaps it is the most important reason to be blogging and tweeting.

CNN Belief Blog

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) — Monday is my last day at CNN.com, so it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned as religion editor here these past three years.

The CNN Belief Blog will continue to go strong under the leadership of Eric Marrapodi, with whom I’ve been lucky to co-edit the blog since 2010. I’m off to National Geographic, where I’ll be director of digital news.

Five things I’ve learned as religion editor at CNN.com:

1.) The faith/meaning angles off breaking news can yield meaningful, important stories — even when it feels a little weird to do them. The recent Newtown school massacre offers a case in point: We wrote about people grappling with the question “Where was God?” in the tragedy’s aftermath on the same day the shooting happened. The approach might have been dismissed as “fluffy” in other newsrooms (and one…

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Roller Coasters and Return from Vacation


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The Diamondback roller coaster at Kings Island introduced in 2009.

Our family reunited after my studies that took me to Louisville for three weeks. My wife drove up from Florida to Louisville with three children under the age of thirteen and two cats [special blessings to her!]. We reunited in Louisville KY and then spent the next week seeing family and vacationing in the Midwest US. While up there, we decided to return to one of our favorite childhood summer destinations. My with and I, both from the Midwest, made frequent journeys to the theme park Kings Island. We always enjoyed the thrill of the roller coasters so we thought we would take our children so they could experience it too. Two things happened on our visit. First, I was surprised that my children (the two oldest ones) were not really excited to experience the coasters. They eventually were coaxed into riding them, which brought immense enjoyment for them. They rode all the same coasters I had ridden in my elementary and teen years as well as the new ones. The second thing that happened was more surprising than the first. I discovered that my “maturity” had in some ways ruined the coaster experience for me. As a teens, we think we are invincible and do not mentally explore possibilities. As an adult with children, exploration of possibilities is a daily exercise (maybe even moment to moment!). For example, few requests made by my children are granted without exploring the possibilities that exist in affirming that they can do something. This thinking was present with me on the coasters! The “what if…” Adding to this unexpected self-discussion, the new coasters are much more exhilarating (read: terrifying) than the coasters of my teen years. I suppose advances in engineering has allowed for coaster feats not possible in my teens (once again, read: terrifying). This advancement in coaster technology only added to my “what if…” conversation. In the end, I rode all the coasters, “conquered my fear” and went home. So I guess my experience differed little from my children’s experience who rode all the coasters, “conquered their fear,” and went home.

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Coffee the new health drink? (Let us hope so)


Coffee Drinkers May Live Longer – NYT, Tara Parker-Pope

Over all, the risk of dying during the 14-year study period was about 10 percent lower for men and about 15 percent lower for women who drank anywhere from two cups to six or more cups of coffee a day.

I really like this study! Coffee consumption remains a vital part of my morning (well all day really). This seems to suggest, once again, not all good things are terrible for us. We will eventually find out most things are fine (and ironically may be healthy). Now where is that study on Boo Berry and Count Chocula?

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Interesting comparison of millennials and previous generations


Millennials
Created by: Online Graduate Programs

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Filed under Current Church Trends, Ethics, General, Philosophy, Spirituality, Uncategorized

I am Thankful…


Thanksgiving is a great holiday for me for many reasons. The food, family, rest from the routine, sports, and Christmas tree shopping remain constants of holiday weekend. However, as much as I enjoy all of these, especially the food, Thanksgiving reminds me to pause and give thanks. The Lord continues to truely bless me and our family in many ways. First we are blessed with being a part of two ministries that desire to impact their respective communities. Our church, Redeemer Community Church, merged this fall with another local church in the area. I am thankful that God allowed us to participate in this merger and in some small way see the manifestation of Christ’s prayer for unity in John 17. Our family remains grateful to be a part of this church. The Lord has also presented many opportunities to minister with the students at Clearwater Christian College. I am careful not to write “minister to” because they have encouraged, admonished, taught me much more than they will ever know.
Second, I am thankful for the work the Lord has done in my family this year. In spite of Julie and my repeated failures to live the gospel in front on them, they have matured in many ways this year, seeing Christ in their trials and desiring to dialogue about their faith with their friends.
There are so many more things that I could mention such as income and health, but these are the thing I realize most this holiday season. For these I am truely thankful.

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Rearranging Chairs….


Recently there has been much discussion about the musings of an invited guest at the regional FBFI meeting.  This speaker, Pastor Sweatt, challenged young fundamentalists [YF] believers with a Calvinistic view using the usual straw man, frayed arguments found in a freshman college theology class.  His point, apparently, was to connect the belief of Calvinism to the Conservative Evangelical [CE] (Piper, MacArthur, e.t al) and thereby provide a foundation for why the YFs are exiting the Fundamental movement.  Sweatt reminisces about the giants [my word] of Fundamentalism past throughout the message; he speaks of men such as Jack Hyles, John R. Rice, Bob Jones, Jr., Lester Roloff, and Bob Gray. He calls his listeners stop listening to the misrepresentation of these past giants of our movement, for we did not live in their time.  Sweatt’s message received a swift reply from Kevin Bauder, another Fundamentalist, accusing him of deflecting the criticisms of the YF and engaging in an astonishing diatribe against Calvinism.
I certainly echo Kevin’s comments to Sweatt, but I believe he missed the main issue at hand.  Jason Janz’s comment bears at least part of the heart of the issue:

Any movement or organization carefully thinks about the message it is portraying to their constituency/desired constituency. Usually, no more important venue exists than the national conference to establish and communicate your message.

From the sidelines, from what has been heard at the last two national conferences, one can only assume that Phelps/Sweatt rhetoric and philosophy is allowable in key addresses at the national conference and obviously applauded by some. This would mean there is a philosophical difference between the FBF and the majority of young guys.

If it is a mistake and an oversight, then the problem is a crisis of leadership, not of philosophy. This speaks to David’s point. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is indicative of the whole. When you hear it from the horse’s mouth (national conference addresses), the toleration of it is at least indicative of the whole.

Either way, it should not take rocket science then to figure out why the FBF has not and probably will not garner a serious following in the 20 and 30-somethings generation.

Posted by: Jason Janz at May 14, 2009 03:45 PM [Read the postHere]

Most YFs know that Fundamentalism as a movement is dead.  They have moved on mainly becasue they know the power structure and philsophical foundations of the current movement are too much to overcome. Why would they want to take up that fight when they are energized to start churches, inner city work, and foreign missions? They make decisions about college, seminary, church attendance, and theolocial reading based on content and philosophy/focus of ministry, not historical battlelines.  They now understand Fundamentalism as an idea. An idea that is found in much that Piper, Mohler, Dever, MacArthur, e.t. al are saying.  The idea of Fundamentalism is alive and well, we should rejoice that the YFs are taking the truths of the movement without the baggage of a movement.

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