I rarely play along with the RevGalPals Friday Five, but today I will: Five People For Whom You Give Thanks to God. I'll make this an Ordination Edition Friday Five, giving thanks to five people (or groups of people) who helped me along my winding and tortured path to ordained ministry.
- Bill Puschman and Cindy Hedge. Bill lived across the hall from me in my freshman dorm, and invited me to Bible study. Cindy, a charismatic Christian, shared her faith and dedication to Bible study with me. Though I was very active in church as a youth, it was through these two people that my faith was renewed and deepened, and my sense of call to ministry was truly ignited.
- Bruce Levin. Bruce was my therapist for several years in my mid-twenties, and was instrumental in helping me deal with some significant skeletons from my closet, allowing me to get my emotional ducks in a row. Without his aid, I doubt I would ever have gained the emotional health, strength or patience to pursue my call to ministry over such a long and challenging stretch of time.
- The Rev. Patrick Downs and the people of St Philip's Lutheran Church. After I dropped out of seminary and the candidacy process, Patrick – a seminary classmate and good friend – called me and asked me to preach for him a few times per year on non-communion Sundays. Even as I was unsure of my call Patrick and the people of St Phillip's held my toes in the ministry waters, nurturing my call even as I actively questioned it. Without his invitation and St Philip's warm welcome, I'm not sure if I would be where I am today.
- My Parents. Each in their own way, my parents have been amazingly supportive of my desire to pursue ordained ministry. From their financial support at times, to their emotional support all the time, they have encouraged and celebrated with me all along this twelve year journey (yes, I first applied to seminary and candidacy in the fall of 1996!).
- Jessicah, my dear wife. Jessicah and I met in January 2001, and she has walked with me during some challenging, what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life times. Yet her faith, her wisdom, her intellect, her love, her compassion, her dedication have all helped me to arrive where I am today. God has taught and shown me much through Jessicah.
OK, I feel the need to add two more to the list.
- The blogosphere. I began this blog in May 2005, and since then I have made several online friends through this blog. By reading the blogs of others, receiving comments on mine, and even having some offline email and phone conversations with some whom I have met online, I have learned much and been blessed greatly.
- God. Yes, I know, it is the Sunday School answer (ie, the answer to any question asked by a Sunday School teacher is invariably "God"), but it is so true. Over these past 12 years I have dealt with some deeply personal pain, the death of a dear friend, the ending of an engagement, personal and professional rejection, uncertainty about most things . . . and it is only because the one who suffered and died on the cross walked along with me and shared with me his Good News that I was able to continue on this path.
- Oh gosh, I could add so many more to this list, including the Church and its liturgy, The Rev. Paul Lutz (pastor from 2003-2005), David Nelson (high school church choir director), my father-in-law (a pastor himself with deep faith and oodles of wisdom); Dr. Eric Heen (professor of New Testament at LTSP and great listening ear when ministry seemed like a no-go for me), Augsburg Fortress Publishers (where my work brought me in touch with so many church leaders, inspiring me to return to the Candidacy Process), and many more . . .