A year ago on Thanksgiving Eve, I would never have imagined what was in store for me. I was at a great transition point, my fourth child had been born just over a month prior. I was at the close of my first call as pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Dade City, FL and was set to deliver my final sermon as their pastor, I had finished my last duties as president of the North East Pasco Ministerial Association, and was turning over my role as board member of Restored Hope, a resource center that I had been a part of the founding. It was a good time and a sad time. I had been given a strong indication that it was time for me to move on, but had limited the call to which God had placed on my heart to move on to. I thought, "God still has things for me to do in Florida." Just under a month prior I had accepted a new call to Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Winter Haven, FL and had already had some tremors that made me enter that call with a little bit of anxiety because of things that had occurred after accepting and turning in my resignation with Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. But I was hopeful and one thing I knew for sure was that God would care for me and my family.
It was a different time and a place and now a year later, I see how God's hand was at work. Though it was painful, God was shaping me and preparing me for where I am now. At that time, I was doing what I was warned not to do in seminary, I was limiting my scope to the wants of my own heart and not seeking out what it was that God had prepared for me. I was like that young rich man that came to Jesus in Matthew 19:16-26. For me it wasn't material wealth, but a desire to serve where I wanted and not where God desired for me to serve. I was proud in where I was and what I had accomplished instead of humble in going to the place prepared for me. This pride is what caused me much pain, but also taught me a lesson. The pride was two-fold, I held the position of Mission District Dean and that was a prize in the eyes of the congregation in Winter Haven, but it was also an area of pride in my heart because that was a position that a part of me wanted to maintain. Now the position of dean wasn't a position of power, but in it came some level of prestige in the eyes of others and a part of me enjoyed that as well as the opportunity to engage and help other congregations when they asked and being a part of meetings and things for planning.
The reality was that when everything fell apart with Abiding Savior and all that came with it, I was able reflect on my call and turn it all over to prayer being fully reliant on the provision of Christ. My faith in God's provision never faltered, which is something that carried me well, but it caused me to really reflect on what it is that God has prepared me for. I was able to give up and just put it all into his hands and it led me to a place that has been such a great blessing not only for me, but for my wife and my children. It opened my heart to be able to become a part of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lake Township located just on the outskirts of Fort Wayne, IN, a long ways from Zephyrhills, FL. This move came with some pain, but so much blessing.
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Dade City, FL was a church that had many great people there and they were blessed to be the congregation that my four children first worshiped at in their lives and three of the four were baptized. Two significant people have entered into glory as I have left, Frank Babin and Mike Krupa, who were both great blessings to me and my family and I am so thankful to have had them in my life and the lives of my children. Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Winter Haven, FL though there were problems with me and the Council had a lot of wonderful people, too, and my youngest son, was baptized there. Now, though, we have a strong sense that we are at the place that my family will grow with me in the ministry of St. John's and all that it has to offer. Much of the ministry in both of the prior calls was mine, but here it feels that much of this I can comfortably say will be a shared effort as my wife is being ministered to as well as my children in a way that neither Shepherd of the Hills nor Abiding Savior were able to and this is not meant to be a criticism of either, but more of a sign of the providence of God. What I am thankful for is that as I gave up and surrendered myself to the call, God was able to bring me to the place that was provided for me. Like the rich, young man that Jesus speaks to about what one must give up to follow I had to surrender to see the fullness of what God had to offer and when I could not rely on myself then and only then could God provide. Hmm...sounds like something Jesus speaks of often and as a pastor it's easy to preach on, but it is scary to live out. I am thankful for this year and what has been done for me and my family. There are still difficulties ahead and I ask for prayers for my mother and father who stayed behind in Florida, but I trust that God will provide. Be thankful and know that in Christ we are never alone sometimes we just need to turn around to receive his full embrace.