Sometimes, life gets in the way...it comes at us with a wind of force, and the unexpected change of winds require that we change course and tack into the headwind to push through. That reality for me last fall, required that I step away from writing this blog or a while. As we begin a new season of the Purposed 365 Podcast, it is also the right time to resume the blogging as well. Thank you for coming back...join me as I resume this series I intended to write throughout last fall. For a fresh start, I am reposting the initial installment so that we can begin from the beginning. Please read on...
If you know, you know...that's real. In that moment...with that image, or that situation, or that result...in that moment, you realize something that only someone in your shoes could appreciate. Only that person who gets it will know exactly what you are talking about. IYKYK!
It's almost like Deja vu...you come to that moment of familiarity, but newness, all at the same time. It dawns on you and you realize that this journey you're on is in the hands of a God who understands and knows you better than you know yourself.
Got Any Mountains?
In the summer of 2000, my family and I embarked on a cross-country trip from middle Tennessee to the west coast and southern California. This was truly one of the most epic trips we have taken as a family over the years. We had so much fun...my wife, our daughter, and my mom and stepfather.
We packed up our 1995 Ford Aerostar van and set out across the wild, wild west. It was amazing to view the broad variety of terrain and foliage along the way. We passed through Arkansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, on our 2000-mile, 29-hour trek. We reveled in the beauty as I cranked up "Nothing to Say" by Andrew Peterson and cruised down I-40, closely following the path of old Route 66. Because our destination was a conference in Anaheim, we planned to make the trip out to the coast, a hard drive, stopping at night to sleep and getting on the road bright and early the next morning...three days travel. Our first stop was in Amarillo, TX. Our second, was Albuquerque, NM. All was going well...until...we came upon the Rocky Mountains. Somewhere between Winslow and Flagstaff, we began to experience an unusual loss of power with our van. It was as if it was struggling to pull the incline and there was no apparent cause. We stopped to check out the engine and transmission. All appeared to be normal.
Pauses Have Purpose
It was 1985 and I was excited to begin the next step in my educational and career journey. We had just recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA, to pursue our first ministry work. I was serving as a youth pastor and my wife was teaching kindergarten in our Christian school. We were full of expectation, wonder at what God was going to do, and finding our way in the world. We wanted to follow God's plan as a newly married couple...having just just celebrated our one-year anniversary. After about a year there, I decided it was time to take the next step in my education. You see, I had determined that God was leading me to pursue a graduate degree in counseling to better equip me to engage my calling to help others find peace, healing and fulfillment. I considered the local graduate school options...a state school that was very close by, a Christian graduate school that had a connection to a well-known religious leader and a somewhat exclusive college that was in the historic town of Williamsburg. After visiting campuses, gathering information, and prayerfully considering the options, I settled on The College of William and Mary in Virginia. I knew that this was the most challenging of the three, regarding admissions standards, but I believed it was the right place for me. Long-story-short, I was accepted and started pursuing my Masters of Education in Agency Counseling.
It was a great experience. I was introduced to many new things and challenged with learning all of the theoretical and technical aspects of mental health therapy. I was impressed with many of the professors. Although it was not a faith-based university, the faculty were always welcoming of my integration of biblical principles and thought into my work. I did not have a scholarship or internship, and my financial resources were meager, therefore, I had to go part-time, taking only one or two courses at a time...as I could afford to pay for them. This would mean that my completion time would be longer than normal, but I was okay with that. I had my plate full with the ministry responsibilities and my wife.
Things went along well for a while, until something happened that changed the timeline...
The minute you step off the plane and hear everyone talking, but don't understand a word they say...you know your not in Kansas, Dorothy. If you've ever had the experience of traveling solo to another country, you know what I'm talking about. When I traveled to Thailand, for instance, I landed in Bangkok and disembarked the aircraft, making my way through the corridor leading into the terminal. While I was onboard the airplane, I had no worries about communicating. I knew that the crew spoke English, my native tongue, and most of the passengers did as well. However, as I made my way through the airport toward the baggage area and, eventually, to the arriving passenger terminal where buses and taxis were awaiting their fares, those English-speaking people who made my trip across the Pacific easy and comfortable, had now dissolved into the crowds making their way to their destinations. Now, I knew that I may be able to find people who speak English, if I had an urgent need to converse, but, there was no guarantee and no certainty about how well they may speak English. After all...I"m an American, and you know what that means. It can be best summed up in a joke I heard.
What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
What do you call a person who speaks three-languages?
What do you call a person who speaks several languages?
Doors Lead to Passageways
Falling leaves interrupt the beam of my headlights as they reflect off of the wet pavement along this winding rural road in the Tennessee hills. My eyes are heavy after a full day of working, but the constant awareness of the dead body in the back of my vehicle, keeps me distracted from the fatigue. Driving through the night, I wonder at how, being a fresh college graduate just a few months ago, I would have never imagined being in this situation. Driving a vehicle with a corpse right behind my seat? Really?!? Not me! But, it was true. I was in a situation that I had never dreamed would ever happen.
My headlights illuminate the the eerily darkened building as I turn into the drive. Pulling up to the rear entrance, the only thing going through my mind is getting the body out of my vehicle and into this building, so that I can get on my way...back home where I am safe, dry and warm.
A "Reminder Note" of Purpose
I was looking through one of my personal journals today, when I came across a couple of notes that my wife had written to me three years ago. I was struck by the words of the notes, as I read and re-read them again. Her messages were encouraging, loving and supportive. She spoke of her love for me and acknowledged the blessings of God on our lives and marriage. Her words rejoiced in all of our years together and expressed her vision for our future. What a wonderful source of love and encouragement! However, there was something even deeper in those notes that has stuck with me (and it's not the first time I've thought about this). Those notes serve to remind me of something very important...it reminds me of who I am (husband and best friend to my wife) and the vision of my future (continuing our journey and enjoying our future together). While it shouldn't be necessary to have such a message to keep one grounded in who they are and with whom they are meant to be, it does reinforce and encourage one in that purpose and relationship. It serves to strengthen the love and commitment that we have. My notes and messages to her do the same.
When You Need a Reboot
I used to write curriculum for a publisher who provided Bible study resources. I wrote for teens, adults and teachers of these age groups. It was something I enjoyed, as it allowed me to exercise my creativity while producing resources that impacted people with the powerful truth of God’s Word.
This work was not an easy endeavor, because I was doing it as a "side hustle" while conducting my full-time career in education and ministry. So, there were many late nights, or weekends, that I would be working hard to meet a publication deadline. It always felt good to hit the “save” button and complete a project…send it off to the publisher and rest until the next assignment came.
I learned a vital lesson, however, on one occasion, as I was working hard to complete an assignment. Nearing the end of the particular series I was writing, I was just about to call it quits for the night. In the process of shutting down my computer...and I can't tell you what I did wrong...I lost all of the work I had spent hours creating. I don’t need to tell you, I was all kinds of crazy at that moment...in disbelief, angry, flabbergasted, sad, frustrated...it was a flood of emotions. The bad news...there was no option to recover the lost material. I searched for recovery methods, I sought advice, I googled advice. I found no rescue. The only choice I had, was to reboot and start over. All of that work…study, development of the studies, teaching methods and ideas…all of it was gone. I just turned off the computer and went to bed. However, the lesson I learned?...save your work often...I discovered auto-save and that never happened again.
This week's podcast features Christian music artist, Billy Ballenger. Billy shares his story that showcases the hope that comes to the hopeless through the miraculous work of Jesus Christ. His story will amaze you as he talks with Jasman of the twists and turns that his life has taken and how, from the back yard of a young kid with a dream that God placed in his heart, he has come full circle, speaking to public high school students about how to make wise choices in life. God has opened the door for his testimony and the message of hope to be broadcast through his music, as he has shared the stage on world tour with artists like David Crowder, Building 429, Andy Mineo, New Song and the band RED. He has toured nationally and internationally, as he has shared his music and message with audiences across the United States, China, Russia and Canada. (Billy's media: Instagram, Facebook, Website)
As a companion to his podcast, we are reposting this blog post on HOPE. Take the time to listen to the podcast here and then check out the blog post below that focuses on the theme of hope. As Billy points out:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
I stood at the end of a road that used to lead to one of the most popular resort areas on Mindanao, Philippines. This road was well traveled because it led to the mountain resorts that Filipinos and international tourists would flock to in search of relaxation, leisure and escape from the heat, in the mountains near New Bataan. But, this day, the road was not traveled by tourists and people on holiday. Instead, it was a dead end, as the roadway literally disappeared into a sea of boulders (some the size of an automobile), tree trunks, mud and debris. There was an earie quiet as people stood, or slowly milled around among the scattered items that had been left in the aftermath of the raging avalanche of water that had devastated this region just a month earlier.
19th Century Evangelist, D.L. Moody, told of a ship making its way into Cleveland Harbor by night. The harbor pilot was at the wheel as the captain looked on. Looking toward the harbor, the captain saw the light of the harbor lighthouse, but he saw none of the shore lights that normally serve to guide the vessels safely into port.
The captain asked the pilot, "Are you sure this is Cleveland Harbor?" The pilot assured him that it was. The captain inquired:
"Where are the lower lights, then?" To which the pilot replied, "Gone out, sir."
"Can you make the harbor, then?", asked the captain.
The pilot's response was, "We must, or perish."
Perish, they did. For that night, the pilot missed the channel of the harbor, struck the rocks along the mouth of the harbor entrance and the ship sank, losing a number of lives.
There is said to be a harbor in Italy which requires the navigation of a narrow and treacherous channel for ships to pass safely from the Mediterranean Sea into the harbor to dock. At night, especially, these lights are used to help the pilot and/or captain find his way to safe port. In this port, there are three lights that are said to need to be aligned, to appear as one, in order to assure the ship's helmsman that he is safely on the correct course to the intended destination. There is a reason those lights are there...and that reason is a matter of life and death.
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!