This post is going to be a little different than usual, but today’s video marks such a significant event in my life that I thought I’d share with you guys, and in doing so share a little bit about my story before becoming Noahs Dad. The story behind the story so to speak.
So I hope you’ll accept my apologize for Noah only being in about 3 seconds of today’s video. However, I included lots of pictures from our weekend to make up for it. And don’t worry, tomorrow’s video will be jammed packed with lots of Noah cuteness.
Those moments you think will never happen….sometimes do.
Sometimes in our life there are moments that we think will never happen.
They seem so far off.
So impossible. So unlikely to ever happen to you that when they do, it’s almost unbelievable. Like you’re watching a character play you in a movie, doing what you wish you were doing.
Then you realize it’s real. The event really happened. It really is you doing something you had only dreamed of doing.
That’s what today was like for me.
Today I Received My Master’s Of Theology (ThM)
To quote one of the first phrases in To Kill A Mockingbird, …It started long before that.”
I’ll save you the long back story, but let me just say this; 15 years ago no one (especially myself!) would have ever thought that I’d one day be receiving a Master’s degree, much less a Master’s of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. But after a five very long years it happened.
And I seriously can’t believe it. Today as I walked across that stage I was once again reminded that God is faithful. And He can do things in and through your life that you never thought possible. It’s amazing. And I’m humbled.
A Few Thoughts On Seminary, Religious Crazies, And Cool Pastors
For those of you who only know me as “Noah’s Dad” l wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit of my story with you. If you have any questions about any of the stuff I talk about in today’s post, feel free to ask them in the comments. I don’t mind at all.
Why I Hesitate to Tell People I Went To Seminary
I wrote in a previous post a little bit about what a seminary student is actually like. But to be honest, I hesitate to tell people I went to seminary because there are so many misconceptions about seminarians (or pastors, people “in” ministry, etc.) I’m also well aware that lots of people have been hurt, judged, or treated wrongly by a religious person (read: religious crazy) and the last thing I want is for someone to think I’m anything like one of those people. So I usually try to get to know someone first before talking about what I “do.” One of the best compliments anyone can ever tell me is, “Wow, you’re not anything like the (fill in the blank with some religious term) I meet once.”
I love breaking stereotypes.
If you’ve been following our story the last 22 months then you probably already knew I went to seminary, but if not, now you do. Hopefully we can still be friends.
Why I Went To Seminary? (or) How A Cool Preacher Changed My Life.
About 15 years ago I slipped into the back of a large young adult Bible study. There was a guy preaching name Todd Wagner. I had heard a lot of preachers in my life, but none of them sounded anything like this guy. He was authentic. He was honest. He was cool! No offense, but most of the preachers I had seen on tv looked like the kind of guys who got picked on (a lot) growing up. (And they all had those awkward “evangelist’s haircuts.) Not this guy. He actually looked, and dressed, cool. I know it sounds pretty superficial, but realizing that pastors could be cool (read: normal) was a turning point for me.
I went back week after week, and bought as many tapes (yes, tapes!) as I could afford. I consumed them. I played some of them so many times I have sections of them memorized to this day. He was teaching truth, and the more I heard, the more I wanted to hear. I had never heard anyone teach the Bible like Todd did. It blew my mind (and changed my life.)
One day Todd invited me to hang out with him at his office in Dallas. I had this beat up car, with no A/C and drove that thing all the way to Dallas in the heat and traffic (it barely made it) just to hang out with him for a little bit. It really meant a lot to me that this awesome preacher took an interest in this 18 year old, punk kid’s life. (Quick reminder: You never know the impact you can have on someone else’s life by investing in them. Don’t ever count anyone out. Ever.)
I remember thinking to myself that someway, somehow I would learn to communicate the Bible like Todd. I found out he went to Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and I wanted to go there also. I was an 18 year old kid, so I didn’t know much, but I knew I had to do whatever it took to go there so that maybe I could learn to talk about the Bible that way he did.
But man, it seemed so far off. I didn’t even have a high school diploma! How the heck was I ever going to get my Master’s degree ?
Todd, thanks for investing in my life all those years ago (and for continuing to do so today.) Thanks for showing me a “different” kind of Christian. And thanks for your faithfulness as a pastor, friend, and follower of Christ. I can never repay you for all the ways your friendship, love, and Biblical teaching have shaped and guided my life forever. Thank you.
By the way to all my friends reading this blog post, if you enjoy hearing life changing messages I encourage you to check out some of Todd’s sermons and our weekly video podcast, Real Truth. Real Quick. (That’s right, I actually work with that same friend, Todd these days, 17 years later. God’s pretty cool, huh?) I think you’ll see why I speak so highly of him. And if you aren’t plugged into to a good church you can even watch Watermark’s services live and free online anywhere in the world! So be sure to check it out.
What A Difference A Decade Can Make
Let’s just say a lot of things happened in my life over that that next decade that God would use to eventually get me to DTS. I met one of the most loving, gracious, and encouraging people I’d ever meet, my wife. She believed in me. And my dream. She saw things in me that no one else did. And she loved me. A lot. I don’t think anyone else (including myself) ever thought I’d actually make it to DTS.
But she did.
I had to first go to undergrad. (And do well enough to somehow get accepted into graduate school.) I moved to Houston to attend the University of Houston (Go Coogs!) moved in with some guys that would become some of my closest friends, and got involved with a church that God would use to transform me. I graduated with a bachelors degree in corporate communication.
My wife graduated from medical school.
We got married (a miracle.)
I got accepted into Dallas Theological Seminary (another miracle.) My wife got accepted into the residency program she wanted to be in, also in Dallas.
My wife finished her residency program. We had an amazing (and adorably cute) son.
I graduated from seminary!
…but it wasn’t easy.
Every Story Has It’s Challenges….
As I was writing this post and reflecting on the last 15 years of my life I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and grace throughout it. I faced some pretty big challenges in my story, and God allowed me to overcome them. Many of the challenges I faced I brought upon myself, but some I had no control over; they were the sort of challenges we all face. But again, I look back over the last 15 years of life with a heart full of praise as I think about how God guided and shaped my life through all of these circumstances.
I could write about a million challenges I faced during that time, but I’ll share a few of the major ones:
- Lost my grandmother to cancer.
- Lost my grandfather.
- My dad (who I hadn’t spoken with in almost a decade, but planned on doing at some point) died before I had chance to talk to him. Here’s a letter I “wrote to him” after his death.
- My wife’s grandmother died.
- My wife’s grandfather died.
- My brother in law got cancer (and beat it!)
- Our son surprised us by being born with Down syndrome. (Not a bad thing, just something we weren’t expecting.)
- We were told in addition to Down syndrome our son could also have a very rare (and deadly) genetic condition know as GA-1, and that it would take 3 months for us to know for sure (right in the middle of my final exams.)
- We thought our son was having seizures.
- We thought our son had leukemia.
- I had to take (and pass) 5 semesters of Greek, and 4 semesters of Hebrew. (which is another miracle.)
- And just today we received a call in the middle of the night from my wife’s mother telling us that her grandmother had passed away. (While this didn’t happen while I was going through seminary I found it interesting that it happened while I was working on this blog post. In fact, this is the point in the post where I quit writing last night, in order to finish up today….)
Man. It’s been one heck of a journey. That’s for sure.
But the truth of the matter is struggles aren’t unique to me and my family. We aren’t the only ones who have faced challenges recently, and honestly our struggles pale in comparison to some of the struggles that others are going through. The bottom line is we all go through challenges. It’s part of life. The question isn’t will you go through challenges / hardships / surprises in life. You will. The question is how will you respond to life’s challenges when they come your way?
As I’ve said once before;
…in this life fear is going to constantly be knocking at your door. And every time it does it’s up to you to decide you will win; fear, or truth. And in this house we’ve made a decision that fear doesn’t win in this house, God does.
I encourage you to make the same decision. It isn’t always easy. But I’ll promise you that 100 out of 100 times hope is always better than fear. Always.
…And Every Challenge Teaches Us Something.
If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you! As I mentioned about one thousand three hundred words ago, today’s post is a little different than others. I hope you didn’t mind. I just wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit more about my story with you. We’ll be back tomorrow with more epic Noah cuteness. But before I end this (super long) post I wanted to share a few nuggets of truth with you as a take away. Sort of a moral to my story in progress.
15 Life Lessons That I’ve Learned Along The Way
- Make time to invest in the lives of other people.
- Never doubt God.
- When it looks like the odds are against you, watch out, because God REALLY likes bad odds.
- God’s plan for your life is probably much different, and certainly much better, than you ever could have imagined.
- Telling someone you believe in them is a much bigger deal to them than it is to you. Take time to encourage someone today. It only takes you a few minutes, they may never forget it.
- You have no idea what God is capable of doing in and through your life.
- Friendships and relationships matter.You aren’t meant to live in isolation. Find people who are sold out for the things that really matter in life and hang out with them as much as you can.
- Who you date and marry matter. A lot.
- The underdog sometimes wins.
- Each of us are only one phone call / conversation / Doctor’s visit away from news that could change the entire course and direction of our life.
- Not all preachers have to dress dorky and have funny looking hair.
- We will all face challenges in life. And when we do we have a choice to choose fear or truth. Choose truth.
- In the long run, God always wins.
- Greek and Hebrew are hard. Avoid it at all costs. Unless you’re trying to earn a ThM. In that case, find a really good tutor.
- Dreams that you think are impossible, may actually be more possible than you think. (I also think I’ve heard that somewhere before….)
I Hope We Can Still Be Friends.
Thanks for letting me have a chance to share a little of my story with you. It’s so much fun sharing our son’s story with you and getting the chance to learn more about yours as well!
I hope you found some encouragement in today’s post. And for those of you who aren’t Christians, anti-religion, etc. I hope we can still be friends. It’s amazing how many people get upset when I even mention God on my Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Etc. I get messages like “I come here to read about your son, not a bunch of religious talk.”
Many of those same people have sent me kind messages in the past, commented on our blog, etc. It surprises (and hurts) me that people can be so quick to write someone off simply because they are Christian. I have lots of friends who aren’t Christians and their relationships mean a lot to me. I hope those of you who aren’t Christians know me well enough to know I’m a pretty normal guy. (Ok, maybe normal’s not the right, but you get the idea.) I hope that you don’t tune me out or stop being my friend just because I talk about God. I promise, if you give me a chance you may find out that I’m not like some of the other Christians you may have met.
Oh, And if you’re one of those preachers with weird hair…I’m sorry, but you and I can’t be friends. At least not until you get a haircut.
And The Most Important Life Lessons I’ve Ever Learned…
The biggest life lesson I’ve ever learned is that I would be nothing without the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ in my life. Every bit of kindness, goodness, joy, love, etc that you see in me is a direct result of my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He has completely changed my life. I once was lost, isolated, living life with no purpose or direction, and worse of all had no idea the joy that could only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him, or have questions about Him, I’d love to answer them. Feel free to leave a comment below.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works [not by anything a person can do], so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
I leave you with one question. What’s one dream you have that feels like it’s completely impossible? Completely out of your reach? I want to know about about! So please take a second to leave a comment below and tell us. (And don’t worry, no dream is too small…or too silly. So don’t be afraid to leave a comment.)