Guatemala! It has been a blessing as we share fond memories, experiences and lots of pictures of our adventure at the “Tracks” in Guatemala City. Facebook has been alive with our pictures and thoughts on Guatemala filling our expressions of gratitude in our mission. It is always our hope that participants not only have a wonderful time, the pleasure of serving and the making of friends, plus the huge blessings for the people there and ourselves, but that they experience a spiritual journey throughout the week. We began spiritual preparation for the mission four months prior to the actual trip with meetings that not only prepare us physically, but also clarify our purpose and reason for glorifying God as we live daily in His Kingdom. Success is not only measured in our completion of the mission; it is measured in how this journey as changed our lives and whether or not it has created a new spirit of Christian growth and maturity. Our “real” mission is how we believe, think and live in the Kingdom of God we are surrounded with on a daily basis. Are we making a difference? Are we sharing Christ? Are we serving others? Are we bringing glory to God and His Kingdom?

There will be a series of articles I will share through the next few weeks that will express our spiritual journey as we prepared for our mission, and the daily devotions we discussed every evening of the mission. Hopefully, this will give you some insight and thoughts about the Guatemala experience that we have grown to love and value. Continue reading

Several of us committed to read the Bible all the way through in 2015. If you are in that group, did you make it? If you are not in that group, is there someone you know who participated? We used the “Chronological Bible,” a reorganization of every verse of scripture according to the order of biblical events. It has been a fascinating journey through scripture, and now that it’s complete, I’d like to offer a couple of reflections on the process. Continue reading

Today marks an important day in our reading of the Chronological Bible. After almost nine months of reading, we have come to the end of the Old Testament. What began on January 1 with the words “In the beginning” has now concluded with Joel’s final thought:

“I, the LORD, will make my home in Jerusalem with my people.” (Joel 3:21 NLT)

Let’s pause to consider the journey of the past nine months. Continue reading

Today is my birthday. Today I turn 35 years old. And today I drove from my birthplace to my current home.

You see, my birthday, by virtue of falling near the end of November, is always somewhere around the Thanksgiving holiday. For the past few years, Tara and I have alternated which side of the family we visit at Thanksgiving time. This year, we drove down to West Virginia to see Tara’s family: for three days, twelve of us stayed in the home of Tara’s aunt and uncle who live in a very small coal-mining village south of Charleston.

Thirty-five years ago, my father was a pastor in a small town west of Charleston. Thirty-five years ago, he drove my mother to Charleston so I could enter the world in a hospital of good repute. And for thirty-five years, my life – like yours – has been wandering from place to place, from experience to experience, from decision to decision.

And today, on our trip home, I drove right past the hospital where I was born. Ten hours later, we arrived at our home.

The long road here took thirty-five years. The short road – although today it didn’t feel very short! – took just ten hours.

That got me thinking: on several occasions, I have heard Christians say that they wish God would put a huge billboard in the sky, drop a message from the heavens, or appear in the form of an angel and tell them what to do, what decision to make, which direction to move. We often speak platitudes to each other such as “God’s timing isn’t our timing,” “It will all make sense someday,” or “You just have to have faith.” But those aren’t always convincing in the moment. And they may just be platitudes: statements that have “been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful” (says Google).

At this point, I could write something like this: “My life, for all its ups and downs, has been marked by God’s blessings. And because of that, I wouldn’t take the short road over the long road for anything! I’m glad that it took this long to get here, because the journey has been worth every minute.” But that would be another platitude.

Take a few moments to read the first eleven verses of the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes. It helps to keep things in perspective on days like one’s birthday.

Here is what I will say about the long and short roads. Had I never traveled the long road, I would not have realized the significance of the short road. If I had not been born in Charleston, today’s drive would have been simply a long road trip.  The course of my life to this point made today’s drive more meaningful for me than it would be for anyone else.

We wait for God to show us the way to go, but in the meantime our experiences form us into who we are becoming. God uses them to form us after the image of Jesus Christ. The long road defines us.

And then we remember, from scripture, that “generations come and generations go.”

Happy birthday, everyone. I’m happy to be on this journey with you all.

A voice from the past calls us into the future.  A journey begins with a simple yet profound ceremony.  We lift our eyes to the hills ahead of us.  Those intimidating mounds must be crossed.  We realize that our help comes not from the thrill of hill climbing but from God, the maker of the hills, the guide along our journey (Psalm 121).

I have begun a professional academic program at the Anderson University School of Theology.  In four years, I will earn a Doctor of Ministry degree (see these preliminary thoughts).  My DMin degree is an applied degree that will be intimately tied to the life of Mt. Haley Church of God.  The program culminates in a “professional project” in which we will work together to address a ministry-related issue in the life of the church.

This is our journey, not just mine.  I intend to keep you updated on my classes, readings, ruminations, and dreams throughout this process.  Soon, I will ask a few of you to serve on a “local support team” which will work closely with me over the next four years and will help give shape to my DMin project.  (Would you be interested in that responsibility?)

For three weeks a year, I will be in Anderson for intensive classes with the eight other students in my cohort.  The first of those weeks is taking place right now.  I want to share with you a wonderfully meaningful event that took place at the end of the seminary’s chapel service this past Tuesday.

All of the new DMin students (including me) and new master’s degree students were asked to come forward and kneel at the chapel’s altar rails.  The faculty and other mentors anointed us and prayed God’s blessing on our upcoming journeys.  And then we were given a small, silver cross.cross

Take a close look at this image.  Look at the date and the signature.  This was signed on September 2, 2003 by Dr. Gilbert Stafford, one of my mentors and seminary professors.  (Dr. Stafford was pastor of East Ashman Church of God in Midland prior to his time as seminary professor in Anderson.)  He was endlessly enthusiastic and deeply theological; he inspired, challenged, and transformed his students in remarkable ways.  He was a writer, a thinker, a discussion partner, and a worship leader.  And he prepared small, silver crosses like this to give to incoming students at the beginning of their time in the seminary.

Dr. Stafford died of bone cancer in 2008.  I was working on my Master of Divinity degree in Anderson then.

Just recently, the seminary’s leaders discovered these signed crosses in a long-forgotten file and decided to give them to this year’s incoming students, including me.

Where were you on September 2, 2003?  I was beginning my second year of math studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  I was 23 years old and was not married.  I had not yet begun seminary studies, let alone service as a pastor.

Somehow, across the years, my life keeps intersecting with Dr. Stafford’s life in meaningful ways.  I can only hope that my ministry intersects with his just as meaningfully.

A voice from the past calls us into the future.  A journey begins with a simple yet profound ceremony.  Stand on the shoulders of yesterday’s giants.  Can you see what the future holds?

Will you join me on this journey?

Pastor David