Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last day...What's next?

I'm sure that many folks are taking today to reflect on their accomplishments of the past 12 months, as well as to look ahead to the next. Why not? I'll take any excuse to reflect for a moment. A bit of self-indulgence that is actually culturally acceptable.
2011 saw me finally graduate from Ashland Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity. Don't believe me? I have the diploma to prove it. The journey began in 1973 when I first felt a sense of call. I pretty much ignored it at went into the marketplace to chase the elusive American Dream. It was in 2006 that I finally heeded the prompting and, miracle of miracles, was accepted at ATS. I can't thank the folks there enough for this life-transforming experience. But, I wrote about that earlier in the year here.
I have always been healthy. No major issues. However, in 2011 I had 2 surgeries on my right hand. And, in all of the preparation for that, the medical pros missed a dark critter lurking just beneath the surface. In November, I had a heart attack. According to the docs, it was a pretty bad one. I have been on the mend for the past couple months, and actually feel really well. I guess if I had listened and started the diet and exercise stuff earlier, I would have probably avoided the MI. Like I've written before...I'm a slow learner.
Looking forward...
The most important issue I face is to recover a relationship with my son. This is a matter that I will not detail, but it has been a painful struggle. For any parent, estrangement from a loved one is difficult,
(putting it mildly ). Especially, one who is deeply loved. If you ever read this, I am deeply sorry, son.
I have been having serious thoughts about starting a new project in one of the more economically struggling areas near my home. I think this is a direct result of the work I did in school. When I started seminary I was primarily interested in the real disconnect between the popular worship music industry and good, orthodox theology. The stuff being offered as "true worship" music is mostly fluff and 'feel-good' clap trap. Sorry if I offend anyone, but even a cursory look will reveal that. Anyway, I digress. As my time at ATS progressed, I became more and more concerned about how we can be involved in the work of the reign of God. Do we simply need to provide dogma and doctrinal 'truth' to the culture? Or, do we need to engage the culture as Jesus engaged 1st century Palestine? I think the latter. This may take the shape of activism in ecology, economics, politics or wherever God's people find themselves in everyday life. It make also take the form of benevolence: food kitchens and pantries, homeless and battered women shelters, work against the growing slave trade in the world, and other work to better the human condition. I would like to see this happening more in my geographical area. So, the New Year will find me pursuing this.
However, I must point out that for most of the world, the more things change the more they stay the same. I was reading the prophet Isaiah this morning. The portion I read contained the story of the Israelite king Hezekiah. In the story the king survived a serious illness because Yahweh healed him. The king was granted an extra 15 years of life. During this extra time, an envoy from the king of Babylon showed up to celebrate Hezekiah's recovery. Hezekiah showed this envoy all of his riches and valuables. Many folks attribute this to Hezekiah's overweening pride. "Hey, look at all the stuff I have!" Anyway, the prophet came to Hezekiah and revealed that because Hezekiah had shown off all of his stuff, at some time in the future all of that stuff was going to be ransacked and carried off to Babylon. Hezekiah's response? Sorrow and remorse for being foolish? No. Angry with the prophet and/or God? No. It was, "The word you have spoken is good. There will be peace and security in my lifetime." Huh?!?! In fact, the writers of scripture captured the same story in 2 Kings 20:19. This must have made an impact on these writers. Peace and security in his lifetime. Let's mortgage the future against present comforts. Sound familiar? It's the same today. We are gambling the future of our children and their children against our present comfort and prosperity. The most glaring abuse is in the exploitation of the environment for fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry is fighting tooth and nail to keep their interests alive, even though we all know that these resources are not renewable and are beginning to run down. Rather than putting the energy and funds into alternative, renewable sources it is more important to be peaceful and secure in our lifetime. This does not even broach the issue of global warming, again a result of the fossil fuel addiction that the world has. So, what will the New Year bring? I hope some common sense. I hope that those people who are expert in these things will step up the pressure on the corporations whose greed and avarice is driving the abuse. I hope that we can learn from Hezekiah's ill-fated remarks that the future is now.
Last, I wish all who stop by this blog a blessed New Year. May all of your dreams be realized. And, May God Bless You Real Good!


  1. Hello, great post.
    I am going to graduate undergrad soon and I wanted to hear a little more about your experience at ATS. I feel God is leading to seminary as my next step and as a Clevelander with a fantastic home church it makes sense that a theological education should go hand in hand with a strong ethic of service (hence growing with and at the home church).

    I have my email and facebook on my blog. Thanks and I hope this new year gets off to a great start for you.

  2. Hello Offset Innocence,
    I am a bit biased toward ATS. They took a chance on an old guy with plenty of life experience and a sense of call to ministry. I'm not sure other schools would have been so accommodating.
    Perhaps Ashland's greatest strength is its diversity in evangelicalism. There are, I think, over 70 denominations represented. Although their history is Brethren, their positions are not exclusive.
    You're in luck being from Cleveland. Last year the seminary began offering the complete M. Div. program at their Cleveland extension. While I was in the program there was a minimum number of credits that had to be earned at the main campus in Ashland.
    If you checked out the link I had in this post that referred to a previous post, you can get an idea of how I feel about the staff that I had contact with. For me, my time at ATS was transformational. I can't recommend the school highly enough.
    God's blessings!