"I hear you are entering the ministry," the woman said down the long table, meaning no real harm. "Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?" And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else's. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching of the feet. It was a stirring in the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you a high and driving peace. I will condemn you to death.I can't emphasize enough what an amazing experience this has been for me. I hope this quote helps all of you understand just a little bit more.
Monday, November 29, 2004
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Noelle Lynn Larkin
Gay and I have a new niece! Gay's Brother Shane and his wife Dana welcomed Noelle Lynn Larkin into the world this week. She was 9 lb. 5 oz. and 22 inches long. Shane and Dana live in Columbus, Georgia. We were honored to be asked to be the baby's Godparents. If you would like to see some more pictures, they are available here.
I thought I would get back to what happened after I returned from CBF in Charlotte. While we were at CBF, we purchased a few books by a couple of the speakers we heard: Tony Campolo and Brian Mclaren. While I was reading these books, I started to get the feeling that this was something that I wanted to do, and the more I read, the more I began to feel that it was something that I had to do.
One morning at church, an odd thing happened. Our minister of congregational life, Nancy Burke, came into Gay's office one morning and asked me if I thought I was being called into ministry. She said that she had woke up that morning thinking about me. I told her that it didn't matter, I couldn't leave my dad's business.
I guess you could say I started trying to run away from this calling. I tried really hard to make other business options work out, but it seemed that the harder I tried, the more I failed. Partnerships that I thought would happen in my father's business failed, and I lost clients in my own business. I can also remember driving in my car alone and just being overcome with emotion whenever I thought about going to seminary. But, rather then answering this calling. I came up with another excuse. I was too old to start over again.
I started thinking that I would be 36 when I finished school with an MDiv, and did I really want to start over again at 36. I thought I could do it if all I had to think about was me, but I didn't know that I could drag Gay through all of that. We would have to move and give up the house we both love. We would both be leaving family and friends, and moving to a place where we knew very few people.
I kept this argument up for a while. Bayshore has 3 services every Christmas Eve. We have a family pajama service, and 2 candlelight services. I can remember Gay telling me that night how tired she was, but I can remember is feeling really energized. I told her that I looked at these services as a ministry, and I really enjoyed doing them.
I felt God talking to me all during the candlelight services. I kept up the same argument, I was too old. My former pastor, Dr. Tom Pinner, was preaching that night, and the topic of his sermon was the wise men. To summarize, he said that the wise men came late, because they missed the birth, and that it was never too late to do what God wants us to do.
I have come to realize now that I am only late in my timing. I am the one who thinks that I should have my career and family established and be settled down by the time I am 35. In God's timing, I believe I am right on time. I never felt a call into ministry before a couple of years ago, so it is not something I have been ignoring. I think God has his own reasons for calling me at this point in my life, and although I don't know what those reasons are, I am now completely comfortable with my decision.
So, I asked God to let me know for sure that this is what he wanted me to do, and not pursue a new business opportunity I had working with churches. There is an old saying that you need to be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it. In a couple of months, the business deal I had with another company fell through, and I really felt God telling me that this was my answer.
It was then that I really started sharing my decision with a few select people. Gay and I spent a lot of time talking about it, and we finally came to a decision that we were going to start investigating schools. I told a few of the ministers at Bayshore one Sunday, and I clearly remember waking up the following morning. For the first time in a long, long time, I didn't wake up on Monday morning with a feeling of fear and dread about what the future held. I woke up feeling great. I was completely comfortable with what the future now had in store. I remember thinking, "Wow! This is really different, and I like it!"
In my next post, I will write about how Gay and I started looking at schools.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
CBF Florida Essay
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
I'm sorry it has taken me a couple of days to write a conclusion for our seminary visits, but Gay and I have both been really busy getting back into the swing of things.
First, I want to thank everyone who prayed for us during our travels. The trip was very safe and productive. We ask for your continued prayers as we wait for word from the various schools, and try to determine where God wants us to be.
And now for the question everyone is asking: What did you decide? Gay and I both feel that The Divinity School at Wake Forest University is our first choice, and Brite Divinity School at TCU is a very, very close second. The only thing I didn't like about Brite was that I was unable to find a local CBF church with a contemporary worship service, but I already know of at least one CBF church with at Wake Forest with a contemporary service.
We were impressed with the faculty at both institutions; both were very open about their strengths and weaknesses. We talked several students at both institutions, and all thought they were receiving an excellent education. Most importantly, we both feel a huge sense of peace about both schools. We both think we will be happy either at Brite or Wake Forest.
Wake Forest has some excellent financial aid programs. I have started the application process for the Wait Fellowship, which would pay for tuition, books, fees, and includes a living stipend.
My application is complete at both institutions, and they will both start considering applications in late November or early December.
I ask for your continued prayers for guidance on this journey. Pray for the financial aid process at both schools. And finally, continue to pray for Gay and I, although we know this is God's will for our lives, that doesn't mean it is easy.
I found the following scripture very appropriate for the current situation:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope! --Jeremiah 29:11
Keep watching this blog for updates. I am also going to pick up where I left off before we left and talk more about my experiences over the past year and a half.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University (Click for a larger picture)
Today Gay and I made our last visit. We visited The Divinity School at Wake Forest for their "Discovery Day" Event. There were about 15-20 other students visiting with us. Much like Brite, the school is directly connected to the chapel pictured above. The morning started at 9 am with a presentation from the admissions director. He gave us a lot of great information on Wake Forest including admission policies, financial aid packages, and general information. This was followed by a question and answer session with a group of students. This session lasted about an hour, and I found it to be extremely informative. After this, we broke up into 2 groups to tour the campus, followed by a lunch with the dean of the Divinity School, Dr. Bill Leonard, and other staff members.
The impression I had coming into Wake Forest was entirely different with the one I left with. Wake Forest is the smallest school we visited in terms of the number of students. They limit the number of students they admit based on the amount of financial aid they can provide. They attempt to provide each student with at least 85% of their tuition through scholarships, grants, and endowments. There are a few scholarships that can provide full tuition and fees along with a living stipend. Obviously, Gay and I both found this to be very attractive. This dispelled the first misconception I had about Wake Forest: I assumed it was going to be very expensive.
The second thing I had been told about Wake Forest was that it focused on the academic more than practical ministry training. From what I observed today both from talking to the faculty and the students, the school appears to emphasize both academic and practical training. Each student is required to take a course called "The Art of Worship" for each of the three years they attend. The students plan a weekly worship service, and are required to participate in internships beginning in their second year. Students have the option of doing their internships in local churches, hospitals, Hospice, and many other diverse ministry settings. The students all thought they were getting a good balance of practical and academic training. The ministry opportunities available at Wake Forest were very similar to those offered at the other schools we visited.
We had the privilege of having lunch with Dr. James Dunn. Those of you who know him, know he can be a bit kooky, but he is a Baptist legend. Dr. Dunn is the former director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and is now a professor at Wake Forest. I was a bit shocked to find out that he is doing an interim in Virginia that requires him to fly back and forth every week. This surprised me, because I think Dr. Dunn helped craft the first amendment when it was originally written. (Hardy, are you laughing?) The great thing about Dr. Dunn is that he always tells you exactly what he thinks, and we had a great lunch with him. We were able to talk to the dean, Dr. Leonard, after lunch, and we were also able to spend some more time with the director of admissions, Scott Hodgins. He told us that North Carolina CBF is located right down the street from the university, as is the local Baptist association which he described as being very CBF friendly.
Gay and I were both very impressed with what we saw at Wake Forest. Luckily, I don't have to decide right now where I am going to go to school. I'll post some more about Wake Forest and some additional pictures once I get back to Tampa.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Campbell University (Click for larger Picture)
We spent some time on Thursday back at Campbell. We remembered the camera this time, so we took a couple pictures. We also spent some time looking around the area, looking at housing options, and visiting with another student.
The highlights of the day was talking to one of the students, Chad. We spent about 45 minutes with him, and we think we really got an accurate picture of the school. He was a transfer from Southwestern (big move both geographically and theologically) and compared the education he was receiving at Campbell very favorably with the education he was receiving at Campbell. Everyone at Campbell treated us very well, and we really appreciate the time they spent with us. There was a great sense of community at Campbell, which is something Gay and I have placed a high priority on when visiting different schools.
One of my concerns has been that Gay and I would make different decisions at the end of this trip. On our way from Campbell to Wake Forest yesterday we talked a lot about everything we have seen so far. Thankfully, we are both on the same page. We still both feel that we are being led to Brite, but we also know that we don't have to make this decision immediately. We still have plenty of time for more prayer and discussion, and we know that we will end up right where God wants us to be.
It has been raining all day today in Winston-Salem, so we haven't been able to do very much. We have explored a few housing options, but mostly from the dry of our Hotel room. Our Wake Forest visit is scheduled for tomorrow, and we are heading home tomorrow night, so I probably won't post about Wake Forest until Sunday. (BTW, this is Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, not Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. This has been a point of confusion for a whole bunch of people, so I thought I would post a clarification.)
We appreciate everyone's prayer and support while we have been on our trip. We both feel blessed to have been able to take this trip together, because we both realize that we are partners in this new endeavor.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Gay and I visited Campbell University Divinity School today. The school is located in the tiny town of Buies Creek, NC, which is about 30 miles outside of Raleigh. Fortunately, I have a lot of family in this area. My mother's father grew up only a few miles from Campbell.
I was hoping I would finish this trip with everything being crystal clear, and that may still happen. Gay and I were both very impressed with the people we met at Campbell and with the programs they offer.
We had the opportunity to meet with a lot of the faculty and staff. We had lunch with the admissions director, the church relations director, and the professor of preaching, Dr. Roy DeBrand. We also talked to several other professors and the dean over the course of our tour. They said they have more church positions for students than they have students to fill them, so getting ministry experience in a nearby church should not be difficult. They have some inexpensive student housing, and we also looked at some other housing in the area that was not very expensive. We spent time talking about financial aid, and the admissions director thought I was a great candidate for the CBF Leadership scholarship, which is something I have been interested in at each of the schools we have visited so far.
I need some time to process everything I have seen and heard so far, so I will write some more about my experience later.
Monday, November 08, 2004
McAfee School of Theology on Mercer's Atlanta Campus
Today, Gay and I visited the McAfee School of Theology on Mercer's Atlanta Campus. The first floor of the building houses the classrooms and offices, and the second floor houses the National CBF offices.
Going into today, McAfee was probably my second choice, and it probably still is. As I have mentioned earlier, both Gay and I really feel called to Brite, and although we understand that may change, nothing I experienced today made me change my mind.
We arrived at McAfee about noon. We toured the campus with one of the students, Susan Fraley, whose home church is Faith Baptist Church in Kentucky. This is significant because Faith is one of Steve Hadden's (Bayshore's new pastor) former churches, and she says she remembers Steve very well. The facilities were all very nice, and we enoyed our tour. We had lunch in the student Cafeteria, and were able to get all of our questions answered. I will be returning here for a scholars day in February when I will compete for scholarships.
After lunch, I took Gay back to the hotel to rest, and I attended a class in Evangelism and Missions. Before class, I was able to talk to several more students, one of which had great things to say about Brite. He was from Ft. Worth, but he wanted to go to school elsewhere. He asked me what schools I was investigating, and he said they were all great schools. He said the most important thing was to visit and find out where I fit, and in his opinion, I would get a great education at any of the schools I am looking at. The topic of the first hour of class was why people leave a church; I found both the professor and the class to be very interesting and came out of the class with a very positive impression.
Going to a class made me realize a couple of things. The first is that this is really going to happen. Before today, seminary was just something that was out there in the future, but today made it seem very real. I am going to be spending the next 3 years of my life in classrooms again, which is something I never thought I would do again. The second thing I realized is that not only is God calling me to do this, but he has now blessed me with the real desire to do this. During the class, I found myself wishing that I was doing this for real and participating in the discussion. Shortly after we were married, I told Gay I never wanted to go back to college, but that has now changed, and I know that change is just one of many Gay and I will be going through over the next several years.
Gay and I are having dinner with Bo and Gail Prosser tonight. Bo is CBF's national coordinator for congregational life. Gay and I have met him on several occasions before, and it is something we are really looking forward to.
Tomorrow we are off to North Carolina, and we will visit Campbell on Wednesday.
Friday, November 05, 2004
I had my interview and visit at Brite Divinity School today. Brite has been my first choice, and where both Gay and I have been feeling God leading us to go. I saw nothing today that changes that opinion.
The morning started with an interview with the admissions director, Dr. Hagadone. He was extremely friendly, and I felt more like we were having a chat. Gay participated in the interview as well, and he asked here on several occasions if she had any questions and what her concerns were. Dr. Hagadone answered all of my questions, and I was pleased with all of the answers.
There are several things I like about Brite. First, it is not a Baptist school, but it has a Baptist studies program. This program was developed to provide an alternative to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) which is also located in Fort Worth. I think I will find studying with students from other denominations both interesting, educational, and useful in my future ministry. By being exposed to other denominations, I will be better able to relate to people from these denominations in my future ministries, and I will still learn what I need to know about my own denomination in the Baptist studies program. All students accepted to Brite receive an automatic grant for 70% of their tuition. Although I don't plan to base my decision on finances, this doesn't hurt. Since Brite is not a Baptist School and has fewer Baptist students, there is less competition for CBF scholarships, and Dr. Hagadone thought I was a great candidate for one of those.
After the interview, Dr. Hagadone took us on a tour of Brite and the rest of the TCU campus. Brite is connected to the TCU chapel and the TCU department of religion. Brite students plan the weekly Tuesday morning worship services in the chapel, and the speaker is often a Brite senior. TCU's library is located immediately adjacent to Brite, which I am sure will prove to be extremely convenient. We then toured the administration building, student center, and other areas of the TCU campus. After this tour, we were able to see a class, although it was ending because all classes end by noon on Friday. Every classroom is Wi-Fi (wireless network) enabled with powerpoint and projector capabilities. (This is true of the entire seminary building and library as well.)
Once this tour ended, we went on a tour of Leibrock Village, the apartment complex for divinity school students. This housing is another advantage at Brite. For $825 a month, we can get a 2 bedroom apartment including all utilities (electricity, phone, water, cable, and internet.) The complex opened 3 years ago, and the apartments were very nice. The tour was conducted by a student (Fester, a very interesting person) and we met several other students as well. We took this opportunity to talk to the students about Brite and Leibrock, and their comments were positive concerning both. Should we decide on Brite, this is where Gay and I will be living.
After the tour of Leibrock, we met with the director of the Baptist studies program at Brite, Ray Vickrey. Although many of our questions had been answered by this point, we were very pleased to be able to meet with him.
I still have several other seminaries to visit, and then I have some praying to do. Dr. Hagadone said the admissions commitee would be meeting at the end of the month, and that I would probably be hearing from them in early December.
I have posted a lot more pictures in my Yahoo Photos gallery. You can visit it by clicking here. Gay took these pictures, and they give you a great idea of how beautiful the campus is.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Luckily for those of you who disagree with me, this will probably be the last thing I will write on politics for a while. But I do think there are a few things that need to be said.
It is not un-American to disagree with the president or the government. We are lucky to live in a country where we are allowed to speak our mind. We all, however, need to pray for our government and leaders. More specifically, we need to pray that they will do God's will, not ours.
It is not un-Christian to vote Democrat. If you believe that the republicans have all the right answers, you are fooling yourself. The new senator from South Carolina believes that gay women and single mothers should not be allowed to teach in public schools, because of their immorality. I am reminded of the Tony Campolo sermon I heard a couple of years ago. Tony Campolo was being criticized because he "loved gays and lesbians." His response was: "So does Jesus." As a country, we need to be very careful that we do not treat others as second class citizens because they do not share our beliefs or religion, or because they are not like us. In the past, the Bible has been used to support the mistreatment of slaves and women. We need to be careful to no let this happen again.
Liberalism is not always a bad thing. One of the reasons cited by southern states when they seceded from the union was the election of the extremely liberal president, Abraham Lincoln. Liberalism has a history that is at least as proud as conservativism, and there have been and will continue to be strong Christians who identify themselves as liberals/democrats.
The continued separation of church and state is an absolute necessity. One needs only study the history of Theocracies to understand why.
The election is over and my side lost. I still love my country, and I feel extremely blessed to live in a country that allows me to participate in the political process. The election does nothing to change my political views. So, you can expect to hear from me again in two years when the democrats take back the congress! :)
January 4, 2005
Keep Your Eyes on the Goal
Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” In Joshua 3, the flooded Jordan river stood between the Israelites and the city of Jericho. The obstacles we encounter in our own faith journeys are usually not that concrete or dramatic, but any obstacle, real or imagined, can prevent us from doing God's will in our lives.
When I first felt God calling me into ministry, I took my eyes off of the goal and concentrated on the obstacles. I even thought it was my responsibility to make God aware of these obstacles as well. Although I had no doubt that full-time ministry was God's goal for my life, there were times I was too afraid to even try sticking my foot in the water. When I finally found the courage to take a step of faith into the flooded river, the water from upstream stopped flowing, and I was able to cross to the other side and put the obstacle behind me. Imagine how foolish I felt for being so afraid and forgetting that I was not alone on my journey.
God does not promise us that our journey will be easy, but he does promise to always be with us. Consequently, I would like to make a slight change to what Henry Ford said: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off of God.”
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Thursday: Fly to Fort Worth
Friday: Interview and tour Brite
Saturday: Look at housing in Fort Worth
Sunday: Continue above and fly to Atlanta
Monday: Tour McAfee in Atlanta
Tuesday: Look at Housing in Atlanta
Wednesday: Tour Campbell in Buies Creek, NC
Thursday: Look at housing near Campbell
Friday: Look at housing at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem
Saturday: Tour Wake Forest, drive back to Atlanta, and return home.
As you can see, this is going to be a crazy trip. Gay is giving up her vacation time to do this with me, and I can't tell you how much her love and support means to me.
I will be posting pictures and updates to this blog as often as I can. So, keep an eye on it starting at the end of this week.
We appreciate you prayers as we take one of the most important steps in our journey.