Originally Written: May 2017
I’ve been working out every day. I remodeled the kitchen, dining room, living room and entry of our house. I have read 19 books and read through the whole New Testament. I could keep listing all that I have done, but I will spare you the details. It is amazing how busy one can be on sabbatical!
I recently spent three days alone on a retreat without my cell phone. I wanted to reflect on what God is teaching me. Two ideas emerged. First, I realized how easily I get sucked into doing things. When people ask, I’m tempted to tell them all I have accomplished. Fortunately, sabbatical hasn’t been all busyness; I have been able to slow down. For example, I have been at the bus stop nearly every day when the kids get home from school. My children don’t care what I have accomplished. They just want to see me. Similarly, my heavenly father also wants to see me. He cares about what I do, but he wants it to be an overflow from my time spent with him.
Secondly, I realized that I love my job and I am excited to get back to work. I had a lot of fun remodeling my house, but I realized that it does not provide the same reward as my job. In fact, it reminds of my calling to InterVarsity. 15 years ago I was graduating from college. I loved computers, but I would rather help someone encounter God’s amazing love for them. That is what brings me great joy.
Shortly before my last grandparent passed away, my siblings and I all traveled to see him.
It feels like death and suffering has surrounded me. Last spring, I watched my friends lose their 4-month-old. This spring it has intensified. A former student at UMD died on January 22, 2017 after a 15 month battle with colon cancer. My wife’s great aunt passed away on January 23, 2017. My last living grandparent passed away January 27, 2017. He was 95 years old. A pastor of the church that I attended in Duluth died unexpectedly at age 52 in a house fire. Another friend is facing terminal cancer. He has 6 kids. Through it all, I have been studying theology.
What does God have to say about death and suffering? Quite a lot. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. Thus, we can too. He talked about his own death and how he would suffer. Thus, he has experienced it himself. And in John 16:33 he said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In his book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, Rob Moll writes “Good deaths, even the best of them, are terrible because they separate.” He also says that for the Christian “this life is only the prelude to an eternal life with Christ.”
In between studying and writing papers, I have been reflecting on my work. While reading part of Moll’s book, I thought about how my job prepares students for death. I help students meet Jesus. I help them learn to follow God in their daily lives. Because a life well lived for God is the best preparation for death.
Thanks for helping me prepare students for death.
On July 1, 2017 I will become the Assistant Director for Leadership Training. This is a new national position and I will be responsible for equipping Area Directors around the country. This past fall, I had the chance to tell my colleagues why I thought the Area Director position was the most important role in InterVarsity. If you want, you can read my notes. Now, I am privileged to be responsible for training this crucial role for all of InterVarsity.
In many ways, it feels like this is something I have already been doing in my region. For example, when my family moved to Duluth, Jacob Fisher also moved to Duluth to attend UMD. We started a freshmen small group that grew and multiplied into several more groups. For the past four years, Jacob has been equipping and empowering students. This year, Jacob will replace me as the new Area Director for the NORTH area. I also developed Luke Olson who became the Area Director for Milwaukee last year.
As an Area Director, I empowered and equipped campus staff to reach the 100,000 students in the NORTH area. As a trainer for Area Directors, I hope to empower and equip people to reach the 21 million college students in the United States.
Let me ask you how did you get here?
Think about it for a moment.
Let me tell you how I got here Read more
Monday afternoon we arrived at my parents house for a visit with my parents and grandmother after Christmas. We were planning to travel home Wednesday afternoon to prepare to host a new year’s party at our house. Tuesday, Grandma stopped eating and drinking and when she went to bed that evening my dad and I had our final conversation with her. Wednesday she spoke her final words in the morning to my kids and she passed away Friday night. While it was a surprise how quickly it went, she was on hospice and it was expected to happen sometime. It just seemed to go quickly at the end.
Death has a way of helping us take time to reflect and give careful thought to our values. As I sat at my grandmother’s bedside I thought about Read more
The photo that sold our house
“You’re getting three offers on your house!” our realtor said over the phone. We couldn’t believe it!
Four weeks ago we decided we would list our house and if it sold we would move to Duluth. We listed the house Thursday. On Monday we had three showings and all three made an offer. Tuesday we compared offers and accepted an offer for more than our asking price!
Our realtor in Duluth said “that’s amazing – a friend of mine in Bemidji said the market is soft!” Read more
I did it! I graduated from New Area Director Training. It took me two years, but I have completed the training with friends from around the nation. The training is designed to help me transition from campus work to my new role as a supervisor.
So what did I learn? Much of what we learned related to how we can better supervise our staff. I must have learned something, because my staff think I am the best area director.
At a recent staff team meeting, my staff team decided to honor my graduation by presenting me a very special award, “Best Area Director.” They even made a mortar board hat for me (see picture).
After graduation, people often ask what’s next? Hopefully more of the same. I love my job!
Coming up: interviewing staff candidates, work with new staff at leadership camp and help staff plan out new student outreach for Fall 2010.
I recently thanked a donor for his increasing financial support. His response told me he counted it a privilege to support us. He went on to say that as long as he and his wife had a job that they would support us. By they way he responded, I asked if he was expecting that to happen soon. He told me about three scenarios for how the company may decide to make cuts if the current economic trend continues. In two of the scenarios he would likely keep his job but in the third he could potentially lose his job. Then he said, “It’s the Lord that provides the ability for me to work, and the Lord who provides what we need.”
As InterVarsity staff we are required to raise 100% of our salary, benefits and other ministry expenses. This raises several questions that you must wrestle with early on. One of the reoccurring questions I was asked early on in fund raising was, “why don’t you get a real job?” Read more
What should I major in? Who should I marry? What job should I take? Where should I live? What should I do? The list of questions we ask God are endless. Inquiring minds want to know. At every stage in life we ask a new set of questions. I am asking, should I go to seminary? Where should I go to seminary?
How do we know which path to take? How do we know whether it will honor God? How can we be sure it is the will of God?
The short answer is: we can’t! The long answer is that we can use the Bible, community, prayer, and history to help us figure it out. What do I mean by that? Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
“Brian, God wants us to get married.” I can still hear the words echoing in my mind. I was shocked. Sure we were friends, but we weren’t even dating! I don’t even remember how I responded but I do remember struggling with those words for quite a while. I remember asking, is it true? Has God spoken to her but not me? Am I going to miss something? Is this God’s will for me? Today, she is no longer following God and I have no doubt it was not God’s will for us to marry. I have grown in my understanding of what God’s will is and how to discern it. I am married to a wonderful wife who is following Jesus.
What is God’s will? Read more