Tag Archive: Beginning

Book wordsI began this blog in June 2011 as this adventure of being a pastor was truly beginning. Now I sit here typing and I am only days away from receiving a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity. I am only months away from beginning my adventure as an associate pastor at Millbrook UMC. I have been having a hard time describing what I have been experiencing, but I am reminded that it is nothing new. I went back and read my first blog post and it captures some the emotions and things I am experiencing. It might be worth reading again.

I feel like words are falling short to express love and gratitude toward the people of St. Paul UMC. You have graciously and with great patience given me space to explore what this calling to be a pastor means. Your love and support has transformed my life as a pastor and every church that I will go forward to serve from here will benefit from what you have taught me.

Words again fall short when I reflect on these last four years of Duke Divinity school. God has used this school experience to mold and prepare me as a pastor, but underneath all of that I have learned that God’s love and grace is so much incomprehensibly grander that I had ever imagined which has only inspired a greater loving response from me.

Then there are my classmates and especially my fellow student pastors who started with me four years ago. Words again fall short as I want to express the sense of connection and fellowship that I have experienced and am so grateful for. These brothers and sisters have inspired me and have shaped my life immeasurably. I suddenly have a new appreciation for the opportunity to gather at Annual Conference each year as God is sending us out to different places.

Words seem weak and limited to express the gratitude and love toward all of my family which extends from my parents and Jill’s parents branching out in all directions. Along with all the support I have had from Trinity UMC, to all the financial support I have had from brothers and sisters in Christ all over the place. Sometimes words seem to fail when you are trying to describe the miraculous and the mysterious. I thank God for you.

My wife has gone beyond what anyone can ask to support her husband in this adventure of being both a student and a pastor. Her love, grace, patience, support, and encouragement has given me a glimpse of the incarnate work of God in and through her. My two boys of who I am so proud I have watched grow so much these last for years. Their patience and support has been immeasurable as they have watched their Dad run off to go read or write so many times during these years. Of all the people in my life it is Jill, Caleb and Ethan that I feel like my words are the most inadequate. I love you.

As I approach this moment of transition I am coming to appreciate that, as it always is with interacting with the Holy Spirit, this adventure in only beginning. I thank God that you all have been with me on this adventure in following.

Thank God for the Hands

hnads 1195576_92868095I have had a very interesting time recently. A great friend of mine and I have sought to meet regularly for a time of prayer and confession. I confessed to him that I have been in fear. Fear that didn’t make sense in the midst of all that God has done and is doing. Fear that seemed uncommon and out of place for me. It had to do with fear about these next steps of the process of me becoming an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. My brother in Christ, with his hand on my shoulder, pronounced the sweet words over me, “In the name of our savior Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”

A couple of days later during morning prayer I was reading Psalm 62 and it seemed that the words of God were just coming alive. That fear was melting away as I meditated on how God is my Rock, my refuge, my salvation. I was flooded with reminders of how God has radically provided for this journey. I was overwhelmed with a joy of knowing that God has a hold of me with his love and grace. My salvation is in Christ Jesus.

Recently my wife had asked many of our friends and family to pray for me and this next step of the process. [I am struggling for words to describe this next part] Even though I was alone at the kitchen table as I continued with prayer that morning I felt as if I were being lifted up on the hands of those praying for me.  The fear was beginning to be transformed as I felt surrounded and lifted up by the Body of Christ.

Later that day as I began studying in preparation for this next step something happened. It was like a beautiful switch went off. Freedom. Deliverance. For whatever reason, at some point in the prior weeks I began studying out of fear, but now I was studying from a place of liberty and joy. I was studying because these are the very things I want written on my heart. I want to know these things about God so well, that they just start dripping off my lips without my even thinking about it. I want to know this God revealed in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, His grace that goes before us, grace that justifies us, grace that transforms us and liberates us to know love, be loved, and to love.

I thank you God for the hands that proclaim forgiveness in your name. I thank you God for the hands that lift others up in prayer. I thank you God for your hands that break the chains of fear and bondage to sin. I thank you God for your hands that lift us up to know your grace and love. Amen.

Prayer – Deep Well

1364044_57098811A couple of weeks ago in our Community Worship service we explored a little bit of the deep well of prayer by looking at Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel. Today I was reading to do some preparing for this coming Wednesday. We are going to be looking at the beginning of the Christian Church in Acts. The theme of prayer seems to be flowing through these first two chapters. Waiting and praying and then more praying.

I came across this from Willimon’s commentary: “In praying, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,’ we pray that God will be true to himself and give us what has been promised.  Prayer is thus boldness born out of confidence in the faithfulness of God to the promises he makes, confidence that God will be true to himself.”

“Prayer really is a deep well that can constantly be drawn from and there is always deeper water.” It was funny, I said something like that during worship the other night, but I am discovering it again for myself as I prepare for something else.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the deep well of prayer. Thank you for the model you have taught us. May your kingdom come in us as we learn to confidently hold on to your promises in prayer.

Jill and Steve at Wesley - The Early DaysContinuing with the idea that the beginning of the story makes the rest of the story make sense and can have the power to show us where we are going – so here is another one of my beginnings stories.

I met Jill in college our freshman year at Louisiana Tech. I had gotten involved in the Wesley Foundation. I hadn’t been involved long at Wesley (it was only the first quarter of school), but I had already found a place where I felt at home and my faith in Christ was becoming more of my own. I was running and bouncing across the front room of Wesley. While I was in mid air of one of my large hops two beautiful college freshman with long black hair came walking into the front door. It was Jill Hynson and Dana Duke. When I saw Jill I had wished I could have stopped in mid air. I knew immediately that I wanted to meet her and get to know her.

I remember when she came to Lunch and Last Lecture I would try and make sure to sit next to or across from her. I would be hovering holding my plate of food waiting to sit down near her trying to to be too obvious.  Well eventually we became good friends.  I from very early on wanted to be more than good friends. I think she liked me as a good friend.

Eventually I tried to ask Jill to “date me”, but she said “no”. We remained friends, however there was that awkward period after being rejected. We eventually became close friends again.  So naturally I asked her to date me again. And naturally she said “no” again.  So we go through a similar cycle again: awkward, close friend, ask, reject.

Now what I have just given you in a few sentences actually happened over the course of several years of college. In between there was summer of being pen palls while I was a camp counselor at a summer camp. There was sitting in worship at Wednesday Night Alive with about 20 total people and Jill and I were 2 of those 20 singing with this one guy playing guitar and hearing Andy Hurst preach. There was the time I wrote and read her a poem to try and get a first kiss. There was roses I picked from the Quad to surprise her. There was also the half pack of Girl Scout Thin Mints that I gave her wrapped in a bow.  There was our first “date” where we went to see the movie “Groundhog Day” (which I thought was a great movie, on the other hand I think she hated that movie – the same thing kept happening over and over again!) There was the other summer she came to visit me while I was a youth director in Lake Village Arkansas and as we were dancing one night and I did not kiss her (even though I REALLY wanted to).

Finally after this last cycle I was determined to be friends even though I wanted more and we got to be very close friends. Then one night without a great deal of planning and forethought  (like the other times past) while talking on the phone I asked her to “date me”. Instead of answering Jill began laughing over the phone. It was very awkward and I didn’t know what to do and I found myself joining her in the laughter. Then in the middle of the laughing I heard her say “yes”.

….that is the beginning of what is now 17 years of marriage.