March 11, 2017

Defense is in Two Days

It’s a great day in sunny and warm, Phoenix. It is Saturday, and I am home relaxing this morning. I woke up around 6:30, but I forced myself to stay in bed until 7:30. This is my last day at home before I leave for VA. Tomorrow’s flight leaves Sky Harbor at 6:30 so I will be up very early. I feel pretty ready — confident I mean — but I still have things to do before I can really rest.

Today is a busy day for me, but in a good way. I completed most of my grading this week, and I prepped for my new classes that are beginning on Monday. I still need to finish my presentation and read my dissertation (one more time) before Monday, but overall, I do think I am ready for this big step. Well, I know I am ready…

Preparing for My Next Steps

As I sit here this morning, I think about the past 8 years of my life. I have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. I know that 8 years seems like a life time, and while I agree, the fact is that in the light of eternity, it really isn’t that long at all. In fact, I was just thinking about this very thing the other day. I was trying to remember how many years it has been since I first attended a megachurch (in preparation for my defense). In my mind, it seems like such a short amount of time, but when I put it in perspective, I realize that I have been attending a megachurch for almost 35 years.

Yes, crazy as that sounds, it is true. I first attended Los Gatos Christian Church (in Los Gatos, CA) in 1982. I was newly graduated from high school, and I was looking for a larger church where I could find more young people my age (college age). A friend invited me to attend the college bible study group, and I went a couple times before I started to go on Sunday mornings. I fell in love with the church the moment the service began — there was something about the music and the preaching — the combination, that simply met my needs back then. Of course, little did I know that the church I was attending was very conservative, almost ultra-conservative, but for the time and place, the church, the structure, and the approach they used, ministered to my heart and helped me to grow as a struggling, somewhat new, Christian. After I moved from California to Phoenix in the 90s, I attended Scottsdale Bible Church, where I go now. I’ve been a member of SBC since 1996. Thus, my faith-journey has taken me from small midwestern congregations (Presbyterian, Methodist, and Lutheran) to non-denomination megachurches. I have grown through the various experiences, and it is my relationship with the church, the organizational differences in congregation size and in worship/service experience, that has served to prepare me and bring me to my present situation.

In fact, as I think about my life and my experiences, I realize just how integral the events of the past 54 years have been to prepare me for this next step of faith. You see, my life has been one long progression of events (some good and some not so good), and the experiences I have had have helped to shape me and make me into the person I am today. My megachurch attendance, just for example, has no doubt, influenced my desire to study this late 20-century phenomenon. As such, I have just finished my dissertation on the megachurch and its communicative practices, but I couldn’t have done this level of research and work, if I wouldn’t have had some relationship to the megachurch. I would say, that as weird as it is, the Lord used my past church experience  along with my previous education and professional work as an artist and designer to bring me to this place in time. Then, with His desire for me to study church communication, the Lord opened doors for me to study and to research a topic that not only could I explore for my final project at Regent University, but that I could embrace and hold as a unique calling and ministry for the rest of my life. In hindsight, and as I sit here contemplating my life and my next steps, I see how the Lord provided the perfect combination of interest and experience, and with those two things, I was able to do this amazing — almost unfathomably work. In this way, I was able to complete this intense and very difficult project, and I think, I was able to do it well. Praise God! I was able to do it well!

Now, I am about to defend my research, and while that thought scares me some, it also excites me too. I am ready to wear a new hat, the scholar hat, and with that thought, I cannot help but give the Lord praise and honor this good day. He has done this for me, through me, and with me. He has made this possible. I take no credit in the work that has been completed or what is to take place on Monday — no — I give Him all the praise. I know that I have been a partner in the work, for certain; but, the Lord gave me the desire, the interest, and the fortitude to keep on pursuing this work, this level of work, and with that desire and interest, I have now crossed the threshold and made my mark in my field. Yes, it is a little mark, but it is a mark. My name is now added to the list of communications scholars who are actively researching issues and concerns in the field of mediated communication (new media), and that thought absolutely thrills me to no end. I mean, who am I that the King of Glory should choose to set me out, mark me this way? I am nothing, yet He has purposed and planned for me to do this work. I am in awe of Him, and I give Him my praise. I am in awe of Him, and I lift His name high, and I give Him all my praise and my adoration!

Getting Ready to Go

Now, as I put all this aside, I think about the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Corinth where he said,

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13, New International Version).

More so, I think about these words as final encouragement from the writer of Hebrews 12,

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (New International Version).

I have put off the childish things of my former way and life, and I embrace the work the Lord has called me to do. I am running this race of faith, with endurance, with my eyes keenly and firmly focused on Jesus, who is “the author and finisher” of my faith. I have no shame, rather, I look up and forward toward the finish line, and I await my crown of glory that will be bestowed upon me when I kneel before His glorious throne. Until then, I patiently wait. I keep myself busy. And, I run without tiring, carrying with me the hope of His glory and praise. Yes, the hope I carry with me is simply this: that in all things I will bring honor and praise to my Heavenly Father, and through my work, I will tirelessly and without fail, endeavor to share with others the hope that lives within me (1 Peter 3:15). I work unto the Lord, and in all things, I desire one thing, and that is that His name will be praised — by all men.

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