Monday, December 28, 2015

I Walked Home from Church Today

Photo from our last Sunday on staff at Philippi 

I walked home from church today, as I’ve done countless times over the years, but this time was different. I knew this was my final walk home.

Each week I walk down the hill from Philippi to my house, two places that I view as a gift from God. I received both gifts on the same day—my 23rd birthday—January 22nd, 2008. Many think the house is a parsonage, but it was just a house that happened to be in foreclosure when we were hired at the church. We were voted in on a Sunday night, and agreed to buy the house the next morning before heading to the airport. The next time we would be in Union it would be to call it home.

2007 was a tough year for us. Alicia left her family in Texas, the place I called home for the previous four years. We suffered through a pair of miscarriages, and I had to come to grips with not being given the chance at what I considered to be my dream job. 2008 brought not only a new year, but a new beginning at a place that seemed too good to be true. Our house, and its view of the magnificent sanctuary, are a constant reminder that God is faithful.

We kept waiting for the new to wear off, to find out that this was all too good to be true. That still hasn’t happened. Brad Goodale turned out to be the best boss I ever had, and Philippi became our family. We have endured another pair of miscarriages here, and the church has loved us through them. When Alicia went into kidney failure, the church not only took care of us, they literally gave us a kidney. Through the roller coaster pregnancies that brought us Reagan and TJ, and their subsequent stays in the NICU, Philippi was good to us, allowing me to miss time to take care of my family.

After all we have been through together, I dreaded telling the church of my intentions to resign. I knew they would understand if I was leaving to become a senior pastor somewhere, but I have never felt that calling. My biggest fear was that they would be disappointed that I was leaving to enter politics. That’s why I’ll never forget their reaction. As much as I needed the church in January of 2008, or during Alicia’s transplant, or when we rocked our tiny babies in NICU, I needed them again when I resigned. I’ll forever be grateful for the standing ovation I received when I announced my intentions of running for the State House of Representatives.

Each Sunday I walk home after another great day in God’s house, feeling thankful as I walk towards mine. I’m sure I’ll still walk to church sometimes (I can use the exercise), but it won’t be as a pastor. Those days are now over. But I can close this chapter in my life with no regrets and nothing but good memories.  

From the four of us, thank you for everything. I have no idea what 2016 will bring, or where we will be this time next year, but we will always be thankful for all you have done for us.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Conquer or Die

Forgive me if this is a bit dramatic, but visiting Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty got me thinking…

Last week Alicia and I had the privilege of spending a few days in New York. On our trip we stopped in Brooklyn, and being the history nerd that I am, I was awestruck by this quote from George Washington.

The British army had amassed 10,000 Red Coats to storm New York. Understanding that losing New York was tantamount to losing the country, General Washington knew his men needed to make a stand in the Battle of Brooklyn. His words now live on, forever etched in the sidewalk and in the hearts of modern patriots. He said:

“The fate of unborn millions will now depend on the courage and conduct of this army. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”

Reading those words and trying to picture Washington’s army looking at the enemy soldiers coming in the Hudson River, I felt an appreciation for the “courage and conduct” of those men—men whom I will never know. I realized just how prophetic the future President’s words proved to be. Did his army have any way of knowing that he was right? Here I stood, 239 years later, as one of the “unborn millions” whose fate he secured. I am grateful for the men and women who have defended my freedom over the years, but freedom would not be there to defend were it not for Washington and his army at the Brooklyn shore in 1776.

I may never do anything nearly as heroic as that army did, but the choices I make today can affect unborn millions, for the better or worse. Choices that seem small today can have incredible consequences down the road, shaping the course for future generations. We must resolve to conquer the task at hand; win the battle every day to make the proper decision, stand for what is right, defend those in need, and stand tall even in the face of ridicule. Taking the easy way out may have devastating consequences for unborn millions.

Today I resolve to conquer or die. I hope you’ll stand with me.