576 DAYS LATER

The only suitable way to begin this post is to apologize. It has been 576 days since my last post. That is nearly 14,000 hours since you all have last heard from me in this format. What a shame. What an atrocity. I know how much you people liked reading my posts…all five of you…and then it all stopped. And for that, I am sorry.

Since we last sat and talked in this way, a lot of stuff has happened! I graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma and got my first full-time job and moved out of my momma’s house and started graduate school and bought my first car all by myself and put together my last will and testament. You heard right. Your boy is growing up.

After graduating in May of 2016  I was offered a full-time position at Southern Hills as the Assistant to Senior Adult & Missions Ministries and College Associate. That happened in June of 2016 and I have been busy ever since. I love that I get to live life with and minister to peoples at both ends of the age spectrum. I love that both groups of people like me, or at least they do a phenomenal job of making me think that they do.

Most of you already know this. You know that I absolutely love my job and I would not want to serve anywhere else or in any other capacity. I am perfectly content with the idea of serving at Southern Hills for years to come. What you might not be so familiar with is my status as a seminary student.

In August of 2016 I began coursework at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I started off that first semester working toward a Master of Divinity. That program is a 90 hour program and that is really all you need to know about it. Ninety hours and that includes six hours of Greek and six hours of Hebrew. That is basically all I thought about that whole first semester. Ninety hours! It seemed so unattainable and to be frank, it seemed rather unnecessary.

I began to seek counsel from a number of guys in ministry, both current and retired. One by one they all said basically the same thing and after taking my concerns, frustrations, and desires to God, I changed my program. I am now working towards a Master of Theological Studies. This program is similar to that of a graduate degree in the secular realm and the requirement is 36 hours. That is a difference of fifty-four hours, just in case you were wondering. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel!

But my program is not the only thing that changed since last semester.

My attitude has changed tremendously. Not to anyone’s surprise, I did not all that much enjoy my undergraduate studies. I loved sociology but I hated the coursework. I hated having to go to school several times a week. I hated all of the requirements that I had to meet. I hated having to take out student loans for something that I hated. I was going not to obtain an education, but rather a piece of paper that proclaimed to the world that I had met all of the requirements set forth by the University of Central Oklahoma and the great state of Oklahoma. And that I did. I became the first person in my family to graduate from college and although I may not be proud of all of the choices I made and the amount of time that it took me to complete those requirements, I am proud of the fact that I did it.

My first semester of seminary was not all that different. I did not necessarily hate it, but I certainly did not love it. It was one of those things that I was doing because I knew it was the right thing to do, the thing that was expected of me, and ultimately the thing that I had to do. But like I said, that begrudging attitude is no more.

There are a few things in my life that I regret. I regret spending five years at OCCC. I regret not trying American cheese on my Chick-fil-a sandwich sooner. I regret not going to a George Jones concert before he died. I regret waiting 30,000 miles to change the oil in my first car. I regret that my party nominated John McCain instead of Ron Paul. But more so than all of those things, I regret not having paid better attention in Sunday School while growing up. I regret not reading my Bible during my elementary and junior high years. I regret not soaking up everything that my Sunday School teachers were sharing with me.

Believe it or not, I also regret my study habits, or lack thereof, during my time spent earning that Bachelor of Science degree. But I cannot change any of that. I cannot go back in time and fix any of those regrets. I can only change now. I can only do better now. And that is my prayer. I am praying that I would not look back on my seminary years and regret my studies or the kind of student that I was, or was not.

The Lord has continually convicted me about this all of this year and for the last few months of 2016. He used a couple different people and a couple of conversations as a sort of reality check. He made it clear to me that this is a matter of stewardship. He has given me the opportunity to further my education and I need to take that seriously. He has prompted a handful of people to pay for much of my tuition these first two semesters. It is a matter of being a good steward of those peoples’ resources and making sure that their investment does not return void.

I share this an effort to update you on the last 576 days but also hoping that you will help to keep me accountable. For the first time in my educational career, I am reading the text books. I am successfully resisting the temptation to ditch class and go to lunch with friends. I am not calculating my grade at the start of the semester to see how little I can do and still get by with a passing grade. I am not doing it just for that piece of paper or because it is what is expected of me. I am doing it because I want to and because I see the benefit of it. Lord willing these courses that I am taking really are preparing me for a lifetime of ministry.

So here is where we are currently:

  • Fall 2016 — Biblical Hermeneutics, Systematic Theology I
  • Spring 2017 — Systematic Theology II, Theology of Church & Family, New Testament I
  • Summer 2017 (beginning 5/30!) — Old Testament III, New Testament III

And the next two semesters should look something like this:

  • Fall 2017 — Church History I, New Testament II, Old Testament I
  • Spring 2018 — Church History II, Old Testament II, Systematic Theology III

That puts me on track to graduate around this time next year. Everyone cross your fingers and add me to your prayer list. Pray that I really would be diligent in my studies. Pray that God would continue to prepare me for whatever it is that He will have me to do in this life. Pray that I would be a good steward of my time and prioritize it in a way that pleases God and better serves not only me, but also those around me.

Now that we have filled in that 576 day gap, I really do hope to get back into a routine of writing. I have a BBQ place that I want all of you to know about! I would like to share some of my current political thoughts and just a whole bunch of other quality stuff.

I will leave you with this. For quite possibly the first time in my educational career, and it has been a long one, I finished the semester well. I finished with a 4.0.

I think we agree, the past is over. –George W. Bush

One thought on “576 DAYS LATER

  1. To
    Tommy, I admire you for sticking with your studies even when the going got tough. You and the Lord have set a worthy goal for you and you are making wonderful progress! What an influence you have already had on diverse groups at SHBC!
    I am so pleased that you have no plans to go anywhere else anytime soon. Your smiling face means a lot to all of us Senior Adults and I know the same is true for the other groups that you are involved with. As I look back on my life, I can see that some things that appeared to be a problem actually were leading me in a better direction. God knew it all of the time! Just know you are my friend and I continue to pray for you!

    Like

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