But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Psalms 13:5-6, NIV.
My posts, Mountains in the Mist and Mountains in the Sun, highlight some of the ways in which God has been teaching me to place my faith and trust in Him even when I do not see or understand everything I would like to or expect to. As I have often said, I have been learning that life is about learning two lessons: I am not enough, and 2. Jesus is enough. I thought I would share some of the ways in which Jesus has been showing that He is enough and that in him I will always have enough.
This past June I spent a week at Yale Divinity School sitting in on the annual summer course on Jonathan Edwards led by Drs. Ken Minkema and Adriaan Neele, who are also the supervisors of my PhD thesis. The theme for the course was “Edwards and the Bible,” which explored his choice of the KJV over the Geneva Bible (the two English translations of the time), the commentaries he used, his exegesis, interpretation, and how he used Scripture in his writings. It was fascinating to get a picture of how he went about studying and using the Bible.
As I already alluded, Adriaan and Ken (Adriaan being the lead) are also my thesis supervisors. I have been in a pilot program that was a joint effort between Yale University and The University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I had finished a second draft of my thesis and it had been sent to an Edwards scholar, Dr. Willem van Vlastuin, at the University of Amsterdam to get a critical review of it. Willem’s comments had come back and Adriaan and I met over drinks and cigars to discuss them. That’s Adriaan and I at that conversation in that picture there.
That was where he dropped some serious news on me. Willem had a lot of good things to say about my thesis, but he thought it would greatly benefit from going from a historical piece really focusing on what Edwards thought, to focusing on bringing Edwards thought into current discussion on the relationship between theology and spiritual formation. It apparently, wasn’t just a suggestion, it was an offer to transfer from UFS to the University of Amsterdam, with Willem taking the lead as supervisor while Adriaan and Ken staying on as co-advisors. Things would need to be rethought and new chapters would need to be written and added to what I had already.
I’ll be honest, I was humbled, excited, and daunted all at the same time. I was thinking I was done, if I took this offer, it would mean much more work, but would result in what we all agreed would be a better thesis and a degree from one of the top universities in the world.
After careful and prayerful consideration, I decided (it might be more accurate to say my wife Mandi and I decided) to say yes. So I have found myself back at about 80% done where I was in January of this year, writing a new proposal for the thesis, and reading a LOT of new material on spiritual formation, spirituality, and spiritual theology (all of which are terms that basically mean the same thing).
When I got back from that, I was given the opportunity to attend the Leadership Center’s Pastor Retreat in Wolfeboro, NH. The cottage where we meet has become one of my favorite places. For whatever reason, pastors often do not take the time to seek out people and places where they can rest, be open, and to take a break from pouring out so that they can be poured into. It was a wonderful four days of fellowship, prayer, and encouragement. I really needed it. I cannot recommend The Leadership Center enough to my fellows in ministry. They specialize in offering retreats for men, women, and couples in ministry that aim at providing a safe, encouraging, restorative place where you can be ministered to by loving and gracious people. Check out their ministry at www.leadershipretreats.org.
After that, I drove out to the Poconos to spend a couple of days with Nic and Rachael Billman at her parent’s home.
Rachael is the same Rachael whose story I told in my sermon, A Tale of Three Women, the text of which remains one of my most viewed posts. We had not been able to meet in person since I left New Jersey back in 2002. It was both moving and humbling to see how the grace and love Mandi and I had shown her and her family back then was still having ripple effects in their lives now. While this was five times the distance and half as long as the Pastor’s Retreat, it proved to be more restful and restorative.
Here is a picture of us…
…and of her family.
She is doing so well…and so is her family! If you ever wonder what God can do with a couple of messed up broken teenagers, check out their ministry at www.shoresofgrace.com. I am truly humbled at what God’s grace has done and continues to do through them. And while you are at it, support their ministry in Brazil by buying some of their music. Their latest (and 12th album) Kiss the Dawn, is awesome.
After getting back from that short trip, a friend of ours gave us a three day vacation at the Oak and Spruce Resort in Lee, MA. This was the view from our room.
Our youngest and oldest have been visiting a family friend in San Diego, so this was a great time for Mandi and I to get some quality time away with our middle daughter Anna who has been so much over the last three years. I called it The Annacation! She is doing so much better with her depression and anxiety. She has made lots of positive strides over the last 8 months. We could not be more proud of her, and are so thankful that God has been so powerfully at work in her.
God has been doing awesome things! And remembering how Jesus is continuing to bless us and even make use of things we had done years ago, helps to keep walking my current path that has so far given little indication of where it leads.