Changes in 2008
11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)
No, this is decidedly not a “Resolutions 2008” post.
What it is, rather, is a brief look at some of the changes coming to The Silent Holocron and company for the new year.
2008 began in the most perfect manner possible (which all things turn out to be in the light of God’s sovereign providence). Tricia and I went to a New Year’s Eve party at Southeast Christian Church (the local megachurch, also known as “Six Flags Over Jesus“). It was a time of good fellowship with friends, I got to do some emergency counseling, and we saw a fantastic preacher from New York deliver a message based on Romans 12:2 (the “be transformed” passage, for those keeping score). Emmanuel Sterlin from Heritage Baptist Deaf Church, which he said was located just a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, gave a message that just astounded me. It fit perfectly with the direction I have been discerning the Lord leading me for 2008, and it was the greatest encouragement I could have received at this moment in my life!
10 hours later, Tennessee played Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl and won. Needless to say, with Pastor Emmanuel’s lifting up of this downcast soul and a Volunteers victory, I’ve been walking on air for the last 24 hours. 😉
But enough about that, let’s see some of the upcoming changes.
First and most importantly, Baby Newell will be born this January. Our due date is Jan. 28. We are currently, as you can see in the sidebar, at 36 weeks, meaning next Monday we will be good to go as far as going into labor! I have a post that I will present later talking about impending fatherhood on which I’d love for many of you who are fathers to chime in. I just learned my mom was able to get the last week of January off and will be coming up from Tennessee, so hopefully she will be here for the birth. It will be great having her here since I am usually at her house for Christmas, but this Christmas is obviously a different story. Also, starting next week we will be seeing the OB-GYN every week after our appointment this Thursday. On top of that, I have created a “family blog” to pictorally document our little one and to give Tricia an outlet as well. You can see it at The Newells. It would be much easier to have a blog dedicated to Baby Newell than it would be for this blog to be taken over by our little poop machine. 😉
Second, I will be reading through the Puritans this year. Please see the sidebar for the link to the Puritan Challenge 2008 and a monthly reading schedule. I have purged my entire “backlist” of books to read to focus primarily on this challenge. I have had what I’ve called “reading ADD” for the past year and a half (since graduation from Southern Seminary in May 2006) and have finished probably less than a dozen books I have started, not counting fiction (of which I’ve read dozens easily). For someone like me, that’s a terrible record. I am praying the Puritan Challenge will help put an end to this “reading ADD” and allow me to finally develop healthy reading habits once again, which in my mind are required for pastors and absolutely necessary for lay Christians.
I plan to give a brief bio at the beginning of each month on the Puritan we are reading, and hopefully a short synopsis (which I currently plan to find from an outside source) of the month’s book. After I finish each book, I will post a review here in which I will (1) review the book, (2) give my personal reflections, (3) explore ministry application, and (4) give recommendations for readers from the content. It’s my hope that this challenge will also spur readers of this blog to take up the Puritan Challenge as well and begin reading books that actually are good for the Christian’s health!
Third, in conjunction with the challenge I am making my focused studies for 2008 on pastoral ministry. 2007 was a very trying year of ministry. Many things happened, not all of which were good. The Lord taught me several lessons in ministry this year, some of which turned out to be painful but necessary if I am to be a lifelong minister. In the end I learned that I need to be, among other things, better equipped in my pastoral role as well as learn how to make my practice of pastoral ministry more visible than it has currently been. I expect in this study to not only learn more about pastoral ministry and entrench in my mind what I have already learned, but to discern where the Lord is leading me in this area. This also fits right in with where I see the Lord leading me in the future, as I have a desire to some day do doctoral work in the area of “a pastoral theology of Deaf ministry.” But doctoral work is some years off, as I have no desire to go back to seminary any time soon!
Fourth, this April I will be attending the Together for the Gospel conference and the Band of Bloggers fellowship immediately before it. I was only able to attend Band of Bloggers 2006, as I work 3rd shift and at that time was too poor to afford it and too sleepy to be able to sit through an entire day and then go to work. This time around, however, I set aside the money and budgeted the time, and preregistered early, back in October. I will use one of my vacation weeks at UPS so that I am rested and attentive. It does not hurt that the conference is here in Louisville, so I save drastically on lodging! I really cannot wait to fellowship with my brothers in blogging and in the Gospel!
Fifth, due to the considerations above, it has become clear to me that I cannot attend the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention in Indianaoplis. Whereas I had already set aside the time and money for T4G, I had not already done so for this year’s SBC. With a new baby, my time at home becomes precious and my time away from home will be limited, as well as our finances. So instead I will be budgeting my time and money for the 2009 SBC which is here in Louisville. It would be a better use of my time since I’m more interested in conferences where I can be edified, encouraged, educated and uplifted instead of dealing with the drudgery of convention politics. It is likely a better use of our finances since I’d be saving on lodging here as well. 😉
Sixth, Tricia and I have reached some conclusions about our finances and my future education. Most of you know that I am a bivocational associate pastor. What very few of you know is that recently my salary became the victim of budget cuts at our church due to low giving. My salary has been cut in half. Not to worry, we are still able to pay our bills, but that is about it. Our ability to tithe will be close to nonexistent (it will truly be sacrificial giving), and our savings will be miniscule if not nothing. What this means is that our finances will be focused totally on getting us financially stable. Once the baby arrives and any medical bills are taken care of, we are going to become misers (hopefully without the “miserable” part). Every spare penny will go towards our student-loan debt. If we do this, we can potentially be debt-free before the time Baby Newell turns 2. In becoming debt-free, we believe we are obeying Scripture by glorifying God with our money. We cannot give cheerfully if we are worried about our bills. We want to be able to give cheerfully and with an undivided heart. We can only do that debt-free and by relying on the provision of God during this time of trouble.
This is related to my future education because Tricia and I have decided that if I want to be able to provide for the family then I need to either get a full-time job at UPS or find a full-time ministry position. Given the above situation, we have decided we cannot rely on our church for support, meaning I need to find full-time work. I am currently a part-time supervisor at UPS. If I went through the management process again and sought to become full-time management, it could take a very long time (5 years or more) before I got promoted to a full-time position. Now, on the other hand UPS pays full tuition and a good portion of books for its employees at the University of Louisville. I intend to take advantage of this benefit to get a second Bachelor’s degree in a business-related field. With transfer credit from my current Bachelor’s from Carson-Newman College, it could take me less than three years to complete a second Bachelor’s. This month and after the baby is born I will be initiating the process of enrolling at U of L. I will also be establishing a relationship with the local Vocational Rehabilitation office and going through the process of becoming a VR client once again. VR is a wonderful governmental department that helps many Deaf individuals go to college and get jobs. If VR pans out, there is a good possibility I will be attending U of L virtually for free. This degree will allow me to move almost immediately into a full-time, better paying position at UPS; in fact I could do so after only being a student for a year, depending on which classes I have taken!
Please pray for the above items as we seek the mystery of God’s providence on each. We know he has plans for us according to Jeremiah 29:11, and for us to realize those plans we must call out to him wholeheartedly as the following verses 12-13 commands!
Well, that’s the 1700-word update. Join us tomorrow as I profile our first Puritan of 2008, Richard Sibbes!