Posts Categorized as: moving
There have been several friends recently who have commented something to the degree of “…gave up on the blog, huh?” I suppose I did. It was not a conscious decision by any means but life got a little out of hand for a while.
Last August, Garrett started his Senior year of high school (note his cool Senior pic).
Kate started her Freshman year. Between football, choir and a host of doctor visits we had a pretty full schedule. On top of that, we were trying our best to purchase a home. We had lived in a house owned by the church since late March and we felt we needed to put down some roots. We spent a lot of time trying to find the financing to do that. ON TOP OF THAT, the church/missions ministry was growing and I was still teaching part-time for LCU. It got a little crazy.
In December we closed on a house in the kids’ school district and then we left for Christmas. We were stopped cold (sorry) by a blizzard on our way to see family but when we got back to Texas, I started remodeling the house. For six(ish) weeks I would work all day at church and all evening at the house. An untold number of friends and church members helped us and finally in February, we moved in! Throw some mission trips into the mix and then getting Garrett graduated and I just lost the concept of keeping up with the website.
As I write this, Garrett leaves in four days for LeTourneau University. It’s a crazy time in life. Kate will soon get her license and is as busy as ever. Shannon is now an associate youth pastor at Compass and our lives are wonderfully full in a challenging and lovely way. Our home is beautiful (all who know Shannon are not surprised) and we LOVE being a part of our church.
However, there is one continuing challenge that we need to face. The medical bills that have grown up around us during this time of transition/diagnoses are pretty impressive. Nothing like some people suffer but for now, they’re a tad out of our reach. My petitions to God about this were answered one day during a prayer retreat. I was asking God to give me the money for those medical bills. What I believe I heard surprised me: “work harder.” In this particular age, there is a great deal of talk regarding the imbalance that many Americans face with busyness. This is a valid issue. But as I tried to weasel out of more work, I became more convinced this was what is required.
I approached several friends and asked them to send speaking engagements my way. That did not work out. But, one friend got me connected with CDF Leadership Capital and I applied to work as a part-time leadership consultant with them. For the last few months, our team has been working to get an amazing group of talented facilitators together hoping to be a blessing to churches around the world! It’s a very exciting thing. In fact, I was just certified to facilitate the Paterson Center StratOp™ tool. It’s amazing.
So, here’s the point. I took a year off of writing. That’s long enough. Some of our big transitions are over, the hiatus is over and I am going to press forward at Compass, LCU and CDF to do all that I can to serve my role in the Kingdom of God. If you care to comment or communicate, email me at email@example.com and I will get back to you.
For those of you who might not have heard, my family and I are leaving the wonderful town of Lincoln, IL
and moving to the wonderful town of Dallas/FortWorth.
I accepted the offer of Compass Christian Church to be their “Missions Pastor” and will no longer be teaching full-time here at LCU as of July. This has been a very fast decision that, in all honesty, snuck up on me. I had no plans of leaving LCU or of doing anything but the tasks laid before me by my own conscience and the administration of LCU. Some of my friends have wondered (aloud) if my post about the Mills moving was a pre-emptive move to announce my own intentions. With some of these questions coming to me personally, I suspect that, among my students at least, there might be some other questions floating around. So before I get to my letter, allow me to say a few things:
- I am not leaving LCU because of any reason. I’m not frustrated, worried or bothered by anything at LCU in a way that would make me pack up my toys and go elsewhere.
- I am not looking for greener pastures. This move is not a “get-to-civilization” attempt or a chance to be somewhere that’s really “moving.” Truth be told, I was not inclined to even listen to the offer from Compass at first…and that was because I have been happy to be here at LCU and my family was doing great.
- However, I AM trying my best to listen carefully to God’s call on my life. I will write more about that later.
- And I AM convinced this is God’s invitation to our family (through CCC’s gracious invitation).
- LCU and CCC have all acted with grace, kindness and respect through the entire process.
- I will still be connected to LCU in a big way. I have officially accepted the position of “Professor-at-Large” (which is a legit title…) and will teach online as well as in-person at LCU in an intensive format (2x/year).
With all of that being said, I wanted to write something specifically to those of you who have been my students over the last 7 ½ years. I would also say that this would apply to many of you who have studied with me on a personal level.
I have thought about this letter for some time. As I prepare for a new phase of life and ministry, I thought hard about what I would like to say to you as I shift my primary focus from teaching to leading. After some time to sort things out in my own heart, I think I can pull this together. I hope and pray that this will be helpful to you.
First, thank you for your friendship and your time. You paid a great deal of money to sit in those seats and I have never taken that lightly. Each class period to me represented a significant investment on your part and it still amazes me that you would so humbly be part of my classes. I am acutely aware of my many limitations, my speech patterns that get annoying (“follow?”) and my lack of depth as a true scholar. Yet the joy that came from spending my life with you in classes, retreats, the Warehouse and in my office was a constant source of joy to me. At times I was weary but there always were some of you who brought hope and renewal to me. I also want to thank you for your patience. Between the doctoral studies, my extra work at LCU, the journey with Shannon’s Lupus and my own parents’ aging, you have been patient with my slow emails, texts, time limits and office hours. Your patience with me was very Christlike and I will not forget it. While you may not know it (or even even have felt it), you were a delight to me and I owe you a debt of love. Even when I was aggressive or grumpy in class, I never took your attendance and attention for granted.
Second, you still represent (at least to me) the best hope of the church. The power of college students who willingly give their lives to God during the 18-22 age-range is simply stunning. The historical data really backs that up! It is a supra-cultural phenomenon that transcends time (think of Patrick’s training of the young) location (the Syrian Christians and their schools of leadership) and culture (a school in an unnamed country comes to my mind here). Young leaders who, like Timothy, have an entire life ahead of them to serve God, represent a formidable opportunity to both grow wise as well as deep. When I see you on campus or around town, my thoughts are ever hopeful, ever positive regarding the potential you have. On the other side of that coin, it also grieves me deeply to see students still enslaved to sinful habits or thought-patterns. Most of you have more latent talent than you might realize and I am ever hopeful that you will be unleashed, through the power of the Holy Spirit to serve those who are either far from God, or deeply hurting while serving God. As you have led Restoration Week trips, weekend ministries, Quest and a host of other service ops, I have seen you grow in astounding ways. I am so impressed with you!
Thirdly, I want you keep learning! This is hard to overemphasize. I don’t mean that all of you should apply for seminary (while several of you should indeed), I mean that as you grow older and wiser, your need to keep learning does not decrease! The problems and issues I deal with at this stage of my life are far more complex and difficult than any stage of my life thus far. My hope is that you’ll continue to keep learning about character development so you can finish well (CCL anyone?)! I pray you’ll learn more about the ontology and application of spiritual formation practices so you are abiding in the Vine. It is significant in this era to be wise about how to help and not hurt the poor. Economics, metaphysics, prayer and project management are all within the scope of the Christian leader. Knowledge and wisdom bring blessing, resources and application to a host of situations in the “real world” and I want you to have these. Wisdom is supreme.
Next, I want to encourage you to stay humble. When I was starting my doctoral work I had a chance to speak with Dr. Dallas Willard. I asked him for advice about entering into a scholar’s life and he told me to be very careful. After our conversation was over, I wrote down what he said to me and he warned me that the temptation to study for your own sake is very tempting. He was right. The academic world is (at least in my opinion) incredibly important. But there is an inherent danger there to be infected with a significant “Competency Extrapolation.” For those who work hard to understand things, this temptation is very, very hard to avoid. Being smart in one (or more) areas leads many of us to believe we’re just plain smart in all areas. This leads to some very difficult issues. The reason I mention this is that I have personally struggled with this and have watched many of my friends do so. Happily, I have also found some mentors and scholars who have maintained a powerful humility that leans toward Jesus and willingly suspends judgment as they pursue truth as best as they are able. These folks not only do great scholarship, they also come at the process as stewards and servants. They have inspired me and I am growing while I watch them. It appears that a significant key to maintaining this humility is that you work with broken people on a regular basis. It means stay in the church and stay in the trenches while you study.
Lastly, I would like to encourage you to learn to live in and practice being in the Presence of God. I am aware of the difficulties of that statement. I know that to say that when God is omnipresent, the issue of “Presence” is confusing to many people. I also know that there are theological positions that decline to highlight immanence for several reasons. Yet I would still maintain that being aware (at the very least) of the friendship and power of Jesus during your earthly sojourn is the highest level of power and joy available to humans. I also think it to be the source of the kind of work that will last and endure for eternity. This will take surrender and seeking. Your will and efforts must be focused on this quest but as you experience it, you will have that amazing sensation of working hand-in-hand with your Father on something He cares about. This is what I suspect Paul was referring to in Philippians 3. The seasons of my life that have been the most joyful have been seasons where this was paramount to me. Even during desert seasons, the constant seeking of God brought me nearer to the Word of God and was rewarded by God. There is far, far more to say about this, but suffice it to say, it is the highest good I have had on earth so far—and I wish it for you as well.
Fifteen semesters does not seem very long when I compare myself with people who have taught 40+ years. But for me, this has been a massive journey. You, my students, have been at the heart of it. I deeply love you and I am so very thankful for your willingness to learn from someone like me. I pray God’s richest blessing on you and I ask (as I often do) that God would remove the foolishness or folly of my teaching and leave what is of Him. Please pray for me—I am acutely aware of my need. And may God bless you for blessing me.
 From Humilitas by John Dickson, Zondervan, 2011
When I was attending Ozark Christian College I took several extra music classes because they interested me and I hoped they would help my career. One of my assignments was to do some arranging of a previously published song. The task was to do a different arrangement without altering the melody so I chose an old hymn that was new to me—Come Thou Fount. As I labored, guitar in hand, over the notes and the score, I arranged the song for a duet between me and my girlfriend, Shannon. She actually changed what I wrote and made it better. Over many years now she (now wife) and I have sung that song together in public and, in some of our darkest times, in private. There is so much of that song I enjoy but there is a phrase at the end that has rung true for me since I heard it for the first time, “Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.” As a farm boy, the idea of fetters made good sense to me and I instantly saw the wisdom of that phrase.
A hobble or a fetter for a horse (or milk cow) is something you put on their legs that allows them to walk slowly, but not to run or kick. Prisons use fetters on people for the same purpose. When I heard that song for the first time, I sang those lyrics as a prayer because of my severe temptations to not just fall into sin but to run after it! I need to see that God’s goodness is what I really want in life. It is His kindness that leads to repentance, after all. Since then, I have broadened that prayer to include my own struggle with wanting new jobs, different scenery or less responsibility. Sometimes it was a prayer that was needed to curb my desire for a new adventure! Lately, it even has meant asking God to put fetters on my heart that I might not get out of step with Him in my present location. In fact, asking God to help me by fettering me with His goodness has become a spiritual discipline I use. The truth is I really need it.
I need this because no matter how hard I try, something (I know who) is always trying to creep into my heart and mind to say that my desires, wants, dreams and perceived needs are, well… important! And everyone I know has this same issue but it seems to be manifested in different ways. Some people want health at all costs. Others want to be near family no matter what. Some want to know what’s coming around the corner. Regardless of the ways that we display it, in the end what happens is that this life, this world, these feelings and these hopes begin to seem like what is most real. God, despite his immanence, can easily be pushed into the shadows by what we want or think we deserve. What happens is that I begin to equate the status of my existence with the quality or quantity of God’s love for me. Whether I like it or not, my culturally-shaped understanding of love (CS Lewis is listening) has taught me that if someone loves me, they want me to be happy. When life is hard there is a sly voice that whines out a sense of doubt regarding God’s love. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned more about the way God loves us through those seasons of hurt.
For me, the moments that are most immediately jarring in this respect is when our family has had to move from one location/ministry to another. That process usually reveals a great deal of what I might have been putting my hope in. Moving is always a mixture of hope and loss. Losing networks, rhythms, homes (that carry memories and experience) and friends can sometimes trump the hope of God’s call on our lives. Part of this for me is that as I get older, I know that when God leads people in mission, it usually hurts for a while. David, Nehemiah, Abraham, Jesus, Paul, Thomas, the Church Fathers, Wycliff, Zinzendorf, J. H. Taylor, Lillias Trotter etc…all had to live a life where they learned to love God while on some kind of pilgrimage. And it hurts, and its great—at the same time.
When we first moved to the middle of Illinois, we did not really know anyone. As soon as we arrived Brian, Chantell, Ryder, Rylee and Regan Mills adopted us into their lives. They showed us around town, invited us to church (where we still attend) and helped us ease the reverse culture shock of moving from Mexico City (35 million) to Lincoln, IL (15,000). Like us, they had no local family and, as time went on, we became family for each other. Brian and I worked together. We camped together, we served our community together and did short-term relief work together. Shannon became a favorite of Regan and we spent a lot of time at the hospital together. When sweet Regs went to be with Jesus, we were blessed to be together. I will never forget the words of the Psalms that knit our lives and hearts together that day. They are friends who became like family.
God has called Brian to be the Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Springfield IL (good for them, tough for us) and so the Mills are moving. We love that God is giving them new opportunities to serve and a new place to live, decorate and create memories. We will (for sure) see them as often as we are able. But, we know it won’t be exactly the same. When they moved out of their house in Lincoln, we made sure to come ready to tote, lift, laugh and eat. As we were moving, I happened to grab a piece of artwork that was made for Chantell by one of the girls she has discipled. I put it in my suburban without thinking. As I came back with another armful of stuff, I suddenly noticed what a poignant and hopeful picture this was for me.
I was reminded that all along my journey in life God has used that same phrase to call me to Himself. History and experience shows that when His presence is with His people, every house or prison cell can be a palace; every road trip can be home and each transition is a chance to re-establish our anchor in the presence and love of God. For me, this photo op was a moment that helped me joyously ask again for fetters.
Our family has moved many times. I suspect we’ll probably have to move some more. There is no permanent rest here. What this picture reminds me to do is to practice making the goodness of God my anchor and home. Please don’t misunderstand or imagine I don’t value my community or neighborhood. The more I love God’s will for my life, the more I see my surroundings with love and hope. This photo was a holy moment for me. The Mills family is a holy community for us. All of it is permeated by one: Jesus.
My prayer for you today is that you would look to Jesus and find your joy there, regardless of your station on the journey. May God give peace and love to you.