When it comes to a most awkward topic of “who am I” I usually dodge out of shyness and a sense of privacy, particularly when asked to write a blog on it. Blogs, in my opinion, are a freakish invention of the information age that suspend the normal laws of relationships and attempt to streamline the process of getting to know one another well by blabbing personal information in a public forum. Nevertheless, the task has been ordered and I will comply.
If I have to speak about myself, 2 Corinthians 3:5 (”Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God”) is a solid anchor and launch pad. Thinking about “who I am” brings to mind major life events like:
- Dating a cute cheerleader in high school who leads me to Jesus.
- Being wise enough to marry that cute cheerleader and having a wonderful daughter and son (and two grandsons) with her in 34 awesome years of marriage.
- Spending a quarter century in the U.S. Coast Guard, living all around the country in cool places like Seattle, San Francisco, Honolulu, Galveston, New Orleans, and Northern Virginia.
- Having the privilege and opportunity to work in executive roles in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, shoulder to shoulder with local, national, and international leaders.
- Serving Jesus as an elder at Mars Hill Church alongside some of the most gifted, talented, and dedicated leaders I’ve ever been associated with.
The experiences gained from these major life events have prepared me well for my work as a pastor. It is a dynamic environment here at MHC, akin to some of the “battle station” conditions of my past. We are at war against the evil one–lest we be lulled into complacency–and it requires constant protection from Jesus. As tough as some days on the job might be, it is comforting to recall the provision Jesus granted in the past for other tough experiences like:
- Being the person to notify a family that their (fill in the blank: father, son, husband, etc) was lost at sea. Even tougher is the follow up call another day or two later that we had to suspend the search efforts.
- Dispatching your boat crews to respond to an incident where several young children have drowned, knowing that the job has to be done but realizing the devastating emotional impacts and nightmares the crews will face for weeks to come.
- Serving as the Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and accompanying him to the site of the Sunset Limited train wreck near Mobile, AL, where in the early morning hours of September 22, 1993, forty-seven people were killed in Amtrak’s deadliest train accident. We spent hours meeting the survivors and families of those killed, consoling them and sharing in their grief while trying to understand the causal factors for the accident. And handling the media requests at the same time.
- Helping a consulting client understand the plain bald facts that their organization has no basis (or resources) to continue operations–and the organization happens to be a faith-based ministry doing wonderful work that benefits orphans and foster children–then helping them close down.
- Doing your duty back in the day when the military first started HIV testing, and one of your crewmembers tests positive. The military doctor says it is your responsibility to break the news.
- Being asked to escort the body of a good friend back to his home for burial from the ship you served on (CGC Blackthorn) just months earlier, after it collides and sinks, killing twenty-three crewmembers, including many good friends and coworkers.and the officer who replaced you.
None of these difficult days at work could compare with the day Patty and I were invited to a room full of physicians and nurses. They were gathered to tell us that our two-year-old son has leukemia and not the flu or a virus–and then watching your young wife holding your son as physicians perform multiple spinal taps and bone marrow procedures throughout the next two years of ongoing treatment. Thankfully Jesus miraculously and mercifully healed our son and forever changed our hearts and our understanding of mercy and grace.
So after a half century of love, adventure, travel, diverse responsibility, hard places, pain, failure, and success, “who I am” is simply a servant of Jesus Christ who has been blessed beyond description, content and thankful in being in the center of His will.