Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday's Meeting

I talked with my wife a few minutes ago and shared that today's agenda focused, almost entirely, on two items: the NAD budget, and, the proposal to increase funding for NAD retirement. The first issue, the NAD budget, occupied hours of discussion which normally would not be the case, except, this year, a recent General Conference action returns around 1.5 million dollars back to the NAD - tithe funds.  This prospect of "available money"  generated a lot of discussion from the floor exploring the possibility of those funds being returned, in some form, to local conferences. That sounds great on the surface; however, it was argued that should some form of returning those funds to the local conferences take place, it would negatively impact,  if not conclude,  the NAD mission/vision strategy which focuses on a number of areas of ministry going forward.  In the end, the voted actions of the delegates defeated initiatives to give further study or open the door to doing anything different with these monies other than to support the NAD recommendation to use the funds for furthering division ministry initiatives, as well, as for the first time in many years, balance the NAD budget which has been in a deficit position for some time.

The second issue which took more time than I anticipated, was in response to the NAD's recommendation to increase by around 1.5 %, overall, funding of the NAD retirement plan for those who are receiving the defined benefit provision. The case was made quite clearly that unless this action was taken, that a deficit/shortfall for NAD retirement funds was certain. This has come about as the result of several factors not the least of which is the failure of retirement investments to yield the expected rate of return needed to fund retirement.

Before this item came up for a vote, the NAD officers huddled with Union administrators and agreed that the NAD would absorb, each year, until 2024, which is when these extra monies would no longer be needed, to contribute annually, around 2.5 million dollars. This was welcome news in that it would reduce the amount the 58 local NAD conferences will have to absorb in order to ensure that retirement remains solvent.  Following this announcement, the recommendation passed by a wide margin.

As the day concluded, I had opportunity to tour, for the first time, the Hope TV studios, which were newly opened two years ago. The studio is a beautiful state of the art facility, that, as I toured it with the Hope TV Director, Brad Thorp, will continue to expand its footprint in the U.S., with entry into the cable TV market.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, two items will be debated at length, I am sure.  One, is the recommendation to support a 1.5% cost of living increase for next year, and second,  a review and likely newly voted action on womens ordination.  Last years action, we were told at the opening session, did not hold up under legal review. The conflict arose in that NAD policy cannot deviate from voted GC policy. However, this does not, according to many, prevent the Unions, and apparently even local conferences, from voting their own positions on womens ordination. Most are aware that both the Pacific Union and the Columbia Union have voted to support women's ordination, and one local conference, the SouthEastern California Conference, has voted to endorse and provide for women's ordination to the Gospel Ministry.

I won't have the ability to report all of tomorow's actions as  I will not be present for what will likely prove to be an all day discussion; I need to return to Nashville before the days business will conclude.

Hope you have found the reports to be of interest . . .


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Afternoon

After lunch, most of the afternoon has been absorbed with presentations representing four major areas of NAD emphasis. Right after the education segment, I noticed that the  security department of the car rental company that I have rented my auto thru, were trying to contact me, so, I have left late in the proceedings to attend to this; apparently, there is a misunderstanding on the length of my rental.  The rental company thought I was returning this car on Friday! Sean Boonstra is just now presenting an initiative on plans for evangelism in Indianapolis; Sean, you may recall, is the former director/speaker for It Is Written and now serves the NAD in the area of evangelism. A couple of added insights . . .

Dr. Jackson has commented on the overall health of Adventist Media ministries with the exception of Voice of Prophecy which is facing some significant financial pressures.

After this mornings lengthy floor debate over Super Storm Sandy, ADRA, etc., we have learned that over lunch, the NAD has appropriated $500,000 from their reserves for immediate assistance to the N.E. corridor affected by the storm.  Additionally, they are designating a special Sabbath offering in two weeks, to further assist. I have mixed feelings on this issue that absorbed most of the morning and resulted in this sizable financial decision . ..  while I am sure it will help those affected by this tragedy, I wonder if such appropriations will be, or should be, solely the result of the impact of a line-up of impassioned speeches . .  speeches that were not given when the tornado's devastated Joplin, MO, or, the flood waters nearly swept away metro Nashville, or as oft the case, hurricanes that slammed the S.E. coastline. If our determination of what we do, and how much we do, is to be determined by the speeches made at Year End Meeting that, in timing, coincide with a terrible natural disaster, then, I would hope that all future  natural catastrophe's would happen around Year End Meetings and then be followed by impassioned advocates willing to address the  post-storm needs at the microphone.

Year End Meetings, First Day of Business

I have been in the Washington D.C. area since last week, anticipating attendance at NAD events and meetings prior to  the annual NAD Year End Meetings (YEM) which officially launched last Friday afternoon. The pre-meetings are add-ons  and are offered to provide information  to delegates as well as to highlight various ministries including Adventist Risk Management, a unique 'Diversity Celebration' on Friday, and Philanthropic Ministries. I'm likely leaving a few out.  These sessions preceed the NAD Year End Meeting business session which began this morning in earnest, and continues through next Tuesday. Other ministries, such as Religous Liberty and the Adventist Review, host luncheons for delegates, and during these luncheons give reports and highlight their respective areas of ministry.

Due to the impact of Superstorm Sandy, Wednesdays pre-event meetings were cancelled. After my own flight was cancelled and re-scheduled twice, I did get to Baltimore Thursday after visiting the day before with my mother and sister who live near Richmond, VA. A note on Sabbath before a report on today's meeting . . .

Sabbath here, as always, is a real quality  event with the focus this time around on 'ordinary people doing extraordinary things.' The choir from Southwestern Adventist University provided worship music and Elder Dan Jackson, NAD President, preached on the biblical theme of how leaven was used in Scripture.  It often served biblically as a symbol of influence and change, sometimes for evil, and sometimes for good. His summary point and conclusion as I understood it, was the call to treat each other, even when we differ, with dignity, love, and respect.  A good message to consider as the business agenda launches.

This mornings (Sunday) session had gone quite smoothly, after worship, opening with the President's Report, and, as the President's Report was being moved and seconded for acceptance, numerous individuals began to line up at the session microphone, the line growing after being inspired by the first delegate to the mike.  The speeches from the floor were in response to Elder Dan Jackson's final President's report comment;  a brief one,  focused on the role of ADRA and it's absence to serve and minister to the needs in North America.  This became a  point of impassioned discussion particularly on the part of leadership from New York and New Jersey who were impacted by 'Sandy' and who confessed that the SDA Church's ability to meaningfully provide help in this disaster is far from adequate.  This opened up a bigger discussion which revolved around the lack of a coordinated Division agency to help in catastrophic disasters throughout North America.

The most recent discussion at the mic, interestingly, is whether offerings given this week to 'ADRA' to help the victims of Sandy - and  which we all now know, provides no disaster help in North America - would actually be given in relief of Sandy victims.   My guess is from this discussion there will be a renewed resolve to address organizational support from the division when disasters take place. There will also be renewed study to the role ADRA should play, if any, in North America and whether the time has come for some NAD structural support, outside of what has been present in the past,  for areas affected by disaster

I'll write another update later today after the afternoon session.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy Day

Why is it a happy day? Because today is Sabbath, I am in the beautiful Smoky Mountains at Southern Union Medical Dental meetings, and as the words of the old spiritual reflect, "Oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!"

My goal is to post on my blog once-a-month, and, I'm 'close' to meeting that goal. I have for the first time used my "mac" to load pictures from my I-phone, so I have more incentive to blog with pictures.
As it is quite obvious, I am a novice.

Last evening I watched a film available on line "Peter and the Last Supper" with Bruce Marchiano who has played the role of Jesus in several movies. This film is not a high budget production but despite the lack of stunning vistas and thousands of extras, it is a moving portrayal of the last few days in the life of the Apostle Peter. The movie depicts an interaction between Peter and his Roman soldier prison guards who he witnesses to. Several scenes moved me deeply and I think you may find it to be equally inspiring.

Now and then well-intentioned individuals ask me "how is the doctorate going?" The last one to ask was my mother who I called last week. I am approaching a critical point in my doctorate. With one class to complete before writing the dissertation I need to reflect on whether I join the ranks of those with an 'EBAD' (everything but a dissertation), or, press on for likely another two years in writing the project. I'm in the interesting point/juncture where others have been in considering whether the rewards/benefits of the project outweigh the enormous amount of time and stress that it will involve in completing it.  Time . . and I trust God . . . will determine the outcome!

Speaking of my doctorate, I am enrolled for a winter class that has required, as all the classes do, reading a number of books, one of which I have brought with me to the Smokies and began reading yesterday. The premise of this volume, entitled "Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us," is that research over several decades has proven that most individuals give their best effort, work harder, and strive to excel and achieve, not because of external reward - "do this and you will get a bigger paycheck" - but because of intrinsic motivation. While the 'carrot and the stick' approach to leading and managing others has been the industry standard for 100 years, corporate America is slowly discovering that the very best output is possible only as individuals are unleashed to contribute in creative affirming environments that allow for self-expression and recognize the dignity and value of the individual.
Novel idea, isn't it?

I have a friend in Georgia Cumberland conference, a pastor, who is dying of cancer. I learned this through Steve Rose who shared the journey that Mike Adams has been on the past several years. Mike learned last week that no further treatments for his disease will benefit him. Mike is married to a lovely lady named Tammy; they have a son, Matthew, who has spina-bifida and is wheel-chair bound and so the future would seem to be bleak and dark for the family.  I called Mike a few days ago, and though I
have not been in touch with him regularly, knowing that he might benefit from prayer and encouragement, and not sure if he would even remember me, I dialed his number. ' Hi, mike," . .. "Steve Haley, good to hear from you!"  Apparently, my unique voice is an instand identifier for some.
Over the next ten minutes Mike did more to encourage me than I probably did to encourage him.  He expects to fall asleep in Jesus sometime in the next few months. Is he sad? I think so. Is he angry? There have been moments when yes he has. Isn't he worried for his family? There have been times when he has . .  but Wednesday morning, last week, and I believe this morning and each morning that will follow . . Mike is confident in Christ. He knows God will provide for his family and he looks forward to awaking in the resurrection to be whole and healthy and to greet his son who will be equally perfect. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

I called to be a blessing to Mike. I hope I was.  I know he was a blessing to me.

Here are a few pictures strictly for enjoyment purposes: the one below is a few days before "Emperor" Marvin retired.

My sons and my nephew at last weeks Titans game . . .

The lighthouse at Daytona Beach and below that,
views of the eigerhorn/north face in the
stunning swiss alps . .  now, one of
my favorite places on earth!

God grace you with answered prayer, peace and forgiveness, strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coliseum in Ephesus

The book of Acts records a story that unfolds in the very place pictured above. Heres the story from  Acts chapter 19:

The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people.34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Ephesus was a major city of commerce, trade, and a center of the worship of Artemis who's temple was one of the very largest ever constructed in that era. It was roughly twice as big as the temple that sits atop the acropolis in Greece. Paul and his companions had threatened the trade and business of the silversmiths who made idols of Artemis. They were not happy about the possibility that an 'unseen' God, could convince people that their God of silver was no God at all!  It was very moving to stand in this theater, which seats 20,000, and consider the scene that is described above; one that speaks volumes about the faith and courage of Gaius, Aristarchus and Paul.

Ephesus is an amazing city; one that had a population of over a quarter of a million at the time Paul visited. It is also, to this city, that Paul writes one of his great epistles, the 2nd chapter of which has one of the most powerful and clear passages on the 'plan of redemption' and righteousness by faith ever written. 

I've committed verses 1 thru 17 to memory as it such a powerful reminder of what Jesus has done for us in order to pardon our sins and save us in his kingdom. A final picture; this one is of the facade of the great library in Ephesus.  Only this section remains of what was a magnificent edifice which contained one of the great library's of the ancient world. The building, like the city itself, and it's once thriving population, have disappeared from the face of the earth. The magnificent remains are stunning; yet, the greatest monuments in Ephesus are the lives changed by the Gospel which Paul and his companion's introduced.  These living temples, will rise again in the Kingdom made new!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Lessons of Seven Churches, Part One

I had hoped to regularly post during my study tour of the 7 Churches of Revelation which I returned from Monday morning (yes; got in around 1am Monday morning); however, I had trouble posting and finally resigned myself to sharing a report when I got back. I'm in Denver this week for my doctoral class but want to get started with some information and reflections on the journey of the past two weeks.

Malinda and I had a great time visiting Turkey and Greece with a group of administrators from the Southern Union.  Impressions?  Many.  Turkey is the land where the evangelistic focus of the early Christian Church centered in and through the centuries, it was referenced by different names depending on who or what power controlled the territory. This country is at the geographic crossroads of two continents, Europe and Asia. It's ancient capital was Istanbul, or as it was known through the 15th century, Constantinople. It's positioned in a vital strategic point on the globe with a very important waterway that links a portion of inland Europe with the sea routes necessary to import/export.  It is interestingly, and in keeping with the biblical account of Noah's ark settling on  Mt. Ararat in Eastern Turkey, a country that has some of the most ancient evidence of human habitation anywhere in the world.

In the Old Testament time, Turkey was the land of the Hittites and the Assyrians who possessed a portion of it during the era Israel was settling the Promised land.  In the days of Paul this is where all seven of the cities of Revelation Two were located,
including one of the area's most significant archaeological sites, the amazing excavated remains of biblical Ephesus. Today, none of the original seven churches is a viable significant center of the Christian faith, or likely, even have a significant Christian congregation of any denomination.  In most cases, the cities such as Laodicea, are no more than empty fields with in some cases, striking archaeological remains. In other venues, such as Philadelphia or Thyatira, almost no visible remains of the 1st century city have survived.

Some impressions that I have returned home with is how incredibly large, sophisticated and powerful were these ancient civilizations.  As you walk the streets of Ephesus, your feet passing over the same stone paths that likely the sandals of the Apostle Paul touched, you are aware of the incredibly formidable challenge it must have been for him to enter this city which prided itself in it's worship of Artemis and had erected one of the largest marble temples anywhere in the world in her honor. I'm in awe of how, before the skeptical and pagan masses, in the shadow of the city's soaring temples, he and his colleagues preached  the Gospel of Christ. The city was, and 2,000 years later, still is a stunning architectural display of man's prowess, wealth, and vanity.  It must have been intimidating for someone with less resolve and determination than Paul, to wade into a pagan materialistic city and introduce it to Jesus.  In fact, the Bible tells us that Pauls first attempt at introducing the city to Christ went about as expected!

I stood in the upper section of the immense Ephesus Coliseum (the 'nose bleed' section) where perhaps 20,000 people may have assembled, as the colleagues of Paul - Gaius and Aristarchus -were dragged into the coliseum as "the whole city" assembled in fury, and according to Acts 19, for two hours continuously shouted at Alexander, a Christian Jew, who was dragged center stage and endured a verbal assault of "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"  That moment alone, brought to my thinking, and I hope on a deeper level, connecting with my heart and ministry, made the immensity of courage and faith the early disciples displayed in living and sometimes dying for the Gospel of Christ,  become very real. I pray for the same commitment.

I have much more I could share but for now I'll post a couple of pictures, and share another post in a few days. The pictures above are from the site of Pergamum.  An amazing mountain top city to which John the Revelator directed many strong denunciations and warnings.  Great trip; also great to be back in the most blessed country on earth.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wow. It's over a month since I posted to my blog? I'm embarrassed! I have a soap box I mount for web -sites, calendars, posted information that's out of date and while I could argue my 'blog' is not out of date, neither is it in synch with the times. Aah.  There lies my excuse; I'm very busy, but, then again, aren't all of us? One very time consuming issue that arose unexpectedly was a principal change at Madison Academy. The much beloved David Denton accepted an invitation to the principalship at Forest Lake in Orlando and with only a week before the school year ended, we engaged immediately in a nationwide search for a principal replacement. A difficult task anytime of the year and all the more so when the search begins in late May! God is good; He's never blindsided or taken by surprise as we are by circumstances and decisions that affect our plans, and the Lord led us to Mrs. Kris Fuentes, presently the principal at Escondido Academy outside of San Diego. I'll share more about this in my Haley Comments edition which may also be delayed due to my overseas trip coming up.

A thought for inspiration, and, also practice in using my new google app for uploading pictures to my blog. Below is the majestic,regal, British Columbia Parliament building located in Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C. I was there last  September for meetings and it is unquestionably a magnificent edifice where important matters of the Province are processed. Now, look at the picture which follows:

This is a small stone chapel, built in the 15h century, on the site of  a former monastery in Austria. Simple, unadorned, built entirely by hand using local stone and wood, as a place of worship. The question: which building is more beautiful?

Final experiment with technology:copy and paste the following link to get a final picture of our illustrious Executive Secretary, Elder Marvin Lowman, on the eve of his retirement. THIS is the way he wants to be remembered!  (just kidding).

Summer blessings and I will attempt to post more regularly on the blog while in Turkey/Greece week after next.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Two days out from our constituency event, I am continuing to reflect on the amazing presence  and leading of God that orchestrated and inspired the organization of his Church. It is a testimony to God's work upon  human hearts that we can have a convocation such as we conducted Sunday, where 500 individuals (and I underscore the word individual) from every corner of the conference convene and conduct God's business in harmony and peace. Someone once said, a bit 'tongue in cheek,' yet with some level of legitimacy, that wherever two or more of God's people are gathered . . . . there will be disagreement. Perhaps that is true; yet, disagreement, of itself, is  not necessarily bad.  It IS good that God made us individuals, with distinctive opinions, unique backgrounds,  and holding in common perhaps only one thread of unity that binds us together, and that is a love for the truth of God's Word, and  a desire to live in obedience to Jesus Christ. My point is this: we need each other, we need each others opinions and need to hear the convictions and thoughts of each other, even when we disagree.  Often, it is out of disagreement that the truth is discovered, and it is a beautiful thing, and a demonstration of amazing grace, when differences lead to unity.  Out of chaos, harmony?  Perhaps some would characterize our event last Sunday in that way, and, if that description is accurate, then I would still say, "God blessed us!"

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Karen SDA's in Louisville

Last Sabbath was a real blessing to me personally as Pastor Injong "John" Moon invited me to preach and worship with his congregation at Louisville Korean SDA Church. The morning service was highlighted by the official welcome extended by the Louisville Korean Church to it's new members who have recently arrived in Louisville from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Due to language challenges, these believers will worship separately from the Koren congregation, but will enjoy the benefit of having a place of worship on Sabbath as well as the needed support of local Adventist believers. The journey of the Karen Adventist's from Myanmar to America has been a long and perilous experience.

In 2005, the U.S. government officially granted refugee status to the Karen people of Myanmar who have been persecuted and driven from their jungle villages along the Myanmar-Thailand border. In many cases, the Karen have had their homes burned to the ground, their village leaders murdered, and their roadways and fields planted with land mines by the Myanmar army who have been at war with guerrilla rebels in the area for many years. Nearly 200,000 Karen have been relocated to crowded unsanitary refugee camps in Thailand and a fortunate few, including around 50,000 over the past eight years, have made their way to the United States.

Myanmar and the Karen people are traditionally Buddhist; however, nearly 400,000 of a population of around 7 million claim Christianity and of that number, Seventh-day Adventists represent one of the largest Protestant denominations, second only to Baptists. It is the old country of Burma where Elder Eric B. Hare pioneered an Adventist education and mission presence in the 1940's, and from his experiences would write one of my favorite childhood mission stories, "Clever Queen." In most cases, it takes years for a Karen refugee to move from their native village, to the re-settlement camps, and eventually, to the United States, some European nations, or Japan, all of whom have granted the Karen refugee status. In most cases, the Karen arrive with no money, no readily marketable job skills, and of course, completely unable to speak or understand English. They desperately need, and greatly appreciate, the support and friendship of their American Adventist family.

My Sabbath worship at Louisville Korean was further blessed by witnessing the baptism of three Karen youth who Pastor Moon had studied with and led to Christ. Pastor Moon does not speak the Karen language, but patiently working with a translator, over many weeks he introduced these new members to God's Church.

I am very grateful to the generosity and mission focus of Louisville Korean Church who recognized a 'mission' project in their own community, and opened their church doors to welcome the Karen refugees. If you have a desire to assist our Karen Adventist friends in Louisville who continue to face many challenges in establishing themselves in Kentucky-Tennessee, get in touch with Pastor Moon who can be emailed at
On a side-bar note, being in the midst of a move to a new home, I can't find my camera cable to upload a couple of pictures I took at last Sabbath's worship service. When I can load the pictures, I'll post them here on the blog. Blessings in the week!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


It is Sabbath afternoon, and it's exactly one week since I received a phone call that Alan Craig, one of the founders of Appalachian Ministries, had died of a heart attack, only hours after I had spoken with him in Church. It was sobering news and I have reflected this past week not only on Alan's life, but on how quickly and completely unexpectedly, our mortal life can end.

I did not know Alan as well as some, having met him about 18 months ago when I drove up to Liberty, KY one day to spend the afternoon with Alan on the project site of Appalachian Ministries, an over two decade old organization that annually provides an opportunity for high school/academy kids from Madison Academy, Georgia Cumberland Academy, and another academy in Oregon, to grab a hammer and saw and help renovate and in some cases build from the ground up, the sub-standard housing that defines much of the depressed poverty-stricken region of Eastern Kentucky. Alan was someone who liked to laugh and shared some of the more 'corny' if clean jokes you have ever heard. As we drove from project to project, as each year there are multiple sites in the area where the kids and their sponsors are working, it was clear to me that Alan loved people, loved the Lord, loved the teens who through this ministry, are given an opportunity to engage in true mission service, right here in the U.S., and for a very small cost, and I know Alan knew that this ministry was making a difference. Not only for those who would receive the gift of a new roof, a new kitchen, indoor plumbing, a roof that would no longer leak, but for the teens who often came away from these few days of service . . . changed.

Last Sabbath, as I introduced Alan in the corridor of the church to my wife who had never met him, I told her that Alan, together with Pastor Donnie Keele who is presently the Campus Pastor for the Georgia-Cumberland Academy Church, were the two driving forces behind this extraordinary ministry. Alan paused, and with tears in his eyes, told me and my wife of how a boy he knows, who went on this years mission trip, and who had dropped out of the church, had experienced a new beginning, a new walk with Christ, as a result of participating in Appalachian Mission.

I don't know if it was God's plan or not, but I think that maybe I was supposed to acknowledge, one more time, what Alan was doing, and had done, for the sake of God's Kingdom, and in ministry to our youth. A few hours after our conversation, Alan Craig would fall asleep in Christ. Lessons I'm reminded of? Life is short, life is precious, life is unpredictable, and the only thing that is promised is the gift of eternal life for all who trust and believe in and receive the gift of Christ's forgiving grace and righteousness. It's the only thing that you can rely on that cannot fail . . . and in the end, that reality is enough for those who grieve, and those who hope, that there is something better, much better, that is soon to come. Maranatha.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pastors Meetings/Pigeon Forge

Every year in mid-January, our pastors convene for our winter meeting in Pigeon Forge. This is one of my favorite appointments in my yearly calendar as it affords an opportunity for some personal time with pastors and spouses and the content of the meetings focuses on issues that are very relevant and important in ministry. This year's theme was devoted to the pastor's spiritual life. Topics presented by our pastors included journaling, personal prayer, Bible study and devotions, and an interesting presentation by Pastor Jan McKenzie on the topic of 'spiritual formation' which in my view, was summarized in this way: if we get past the terms that concern some, as well as some practices that are not in keeping with sound Biblical theology, there is much to commend attention to the practices of prayer and biblical meditation. While never using the term 'spiritual formation' which is possibly a phrase she was not familiar with, Ellen White frequently wrote of thoughtful reflection including this oft-quoted statement: "It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones." DA pg 83. Sanctified imagination engaging the presence of God and His word. Good counsel from God's servant!

At the pastor's meetings, I was given the opportunity to present a topic of interest to me personally, and that is personal spiritual retreats, an experience that has a solid foundation exampled in the life of Christ who often withdrew to a solitary place for prayer and communion with His Father. Quiet settings in nature are great for such an experience.

The pictures above are of an afternoon walk that a few of us made to the falls just above Sugarlands Visitor Center. There was a heavy mist/light rain for much of the walk but the fellowship was enjoyable, the exercise appreciated, and the Smokies seem to have a wonderful beauty regardless of season or weather conditions.

Following this meeting I winged my way to Florida for the North American Division Prayer Conference and was blessed to be in the setting of church members and those who serve in prayer ministries who have an obvious passionate interest in seeing prayer as more than a small part of our religious experience and practice, but the life-blood - the heart beat - of our faith. There are some great books on prayer and if you're near Nashville, stop in at our Nourish Christian Book store next to the Conference Office and take a look at some of the resources for deepening your personal prayer life.

Peace and Grace in Him,

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 3 in Denver

The two pictures are of a beautiful sunset, Thursday night, just to the west of Littleton, CO, and of the main academic/classroom building at Denver Seminary. I'm discovering that while the Apple I-phone camera is great for close-ups, it has no zoom feature, so, I do not stand behind the quality of my photography (notice how I blamed the equipment?).

Thursday's class was quite extraordinary in a couple of areas, one being the intentional discussion and dialog between the professor and the class on the 'Sabbath.' Much of evangelical Christianity is discovering the blessing of, what they term, "a" Sabbath, and this was the focus of the class discussion. At one point, the teacher, knowing something about Adventists, asked me what role the Sabbath has in our faith. I replied that it is a central focus in our theology and practice and that I was pleased to observe that evangelical Christianity is discovering the blessings of Sabbath. I reflected further on what this blessing has meant to those who historically have observed it. I would of course, differ greatly on the topic of choosing "a" Sabbath - which is the professor's viewpoint - as opposed to the Biblical reality, which is "the" Sabbath, but I did not argue that point before the class. Perhaps another opportunity will arise to dialog further, now that there seems to be wide agreement that Sabbath is important, even necessary. This seems to be a positive dynamic and I'm seeing it often in evangelical print and discussion, but it includes a risk, and one that we are very familiar with. This agreement will lead, according to "Great Controversy," to the election, enforced by civil law, of "a day" of rest - "a" Sabbath - and this controversy will hinge on this point of "which day can be, should be, 'the' Sabbath. Identifying a specific day, and one that might be enforced by law, seems ludicrous to evangelical Christians; however, the discussion presently, which is "a" Sabbath, and may seem far removed from arguing "the" Sabbath, yet the leap from "a" to "the" is not a very big move.

The 1st day of class the professor asked three of us, who sit together, and asked us only, what single thing defines our denomination. The individual to my right, is a former Conservative Baptist, who has moved toward a more moderate church tradition. The individual to my left, is a Pentecostal pastor who I have developed a friendship with over the past two years as we've been in class together several times. My pentecostal friend replied that his church is defined by missiology/missions. The person to my right said his church was defined by 'grace' and that's what attracted him to it after leaving a rigid environment. When I was asked, I replied that while my church practices "grace," it is "fidelity to Scripture" which defines it best. There may be other answers to that question, but I like the one I gave . . I am aligned with my church by life and practice, because IT is aligned the closest to Scripture of any denomination I am aware of. In my church, grace is operative, and truth matters . . it's a good combination.

Am in my final day of class and today's discussion is much about living 'in community.' This presentation/discussion is about friendship and the obligation we have to each other to build one another up, and to engage with the need to understand, practice, and grow in receiving authentic love, as well as giving it. John 13:34 is the text which defined the discussion.

While much of what I've shared in this week's class seems diverse and disconnected, it is very much about being healthy, growing leaders. Being a good leader, covers a lot of ground!

Sabbath peace!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The picture above was likely the best of a handful I took on Wednesday at Denver Seminary. The view is looking west, from the back of the Denver Seminary campus, which is a small campus, but I learned yesterday, has around 1100 students in it's graduate programs. I took a couple of pictures of the campus but they didn't turn out particularly well. I enjoy the snow glistening off the front range to the west, and the dry, usually clear and sunny weather, make Denver a nice winter locale (except when they get dumped on with 14 inches of snow which happened a few weeks ago!)

Wednesday's class was, as Tuesdays, quite intense. We talked about what a biblical "calling" really means. Does it change? Is it continual or, at a single point in time? Interestingly, we also talked about 'conversion' with some of the same questions. Another topic of the day was "institutionalism." Obviously, we who live and serve within the Church, are part of a large structure. Can organizations and structures limit the purpose and mission and ministry of the individual? We reviewed the life of Francis of Assisi, who, was someone I knew little of, but who lived a life of humble poverty and servitude that was quite remarkable. Another area was reflecting on one of our assigned class text books called "The Spire," which is a very strange read that is the fictional account of a minister who is consumed with ambition and unholy zeal to do what he would suggest is God's will, but is likely serving his own ego.

Lots of lessons and issues to reflect on and much of this class is designed to bring you into close and personal review of who you are. Not what you think you are, what you wish you were, what you hope others see you as, but who and what you really are.
The professor for this class is quite deep; he lectures without notes for six to seven hours at a time, interrupted only by moments of engaging the class in discussion. One of the most interesting statements he made was a brief comment"I have looked into the eyes of the President of the United States on three different occasions, and asked him about his indiscretions." Dr. MacDonald was one of Bill Clinton's counselors and spiritual guides during his presidency. Blessings in the day

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Navigating the Minefields" Day One

Ok. So, when you're driving at 65 mph, at nightfall, hanging your I-phone out the window to capture a beautiful Denver, CO sunset, this is what you get - at least from a very novice photographer such as me! If the sunrise tomorrow is, as expected, as beautiful as this morning, I'll take a couple of shots of the snow covered front range hills just outside my hotel window.

Today's first 8 hour class session was outstanding. Dr. Gordon MacDonald, author of "A Resilient Life," "Going Deep," and probably a dozen other volumes, is our instructor and he wasted no time in having us explore our personal life journeys with the goal of identifying the obstacles, testing moments, when God used circumstances to teach and shape us for the present . . . and the future. I don't think I've ever had a professor begin a class with sharing in detail, his failure points in an otherwise stellar ministry career, but in doing that, Dr. MacDonald, or "Gordon" as he prefers to be called, opened the door for the class to be authentic, real, and genuine; a necessary pre-requisite to learn truth about yourself.

As always, the make up of the class is quite interesting and the richness of backgrounds and life experiences of the students add much to the learning environment. To my knowledge, I am one of eight Adventist students at Denver, with most of us in the D. Min. program, and I believe our interaction and connection with leaders of other faith backgrounds is a positive witness for the church.

Will get a couple of better pics of the school and area tomorrow and post them with my end of day report. Blessings!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year in Denver

It's January the 2nd of a new year and I'm preparing for my first day of my doctoral class which begins in the morning. This is my third January spent in Denver in pursuit of my degree, and tomorrow's class, "Navigating the Minefields of Ministry," with Dr. Gordon MacDonald, promises to be a rich and rewarding study. Gordon MacDonald is a prolific author who has contributed an enormous amount of material in the area of developing leaders who consistently reflect integrity, balance, and a life-time posture of growing in personal relationships, in their ministry, and in their walk with Jesus Christ.

My guess is Dr. MacDonald is in his 70's but he inspires and motivates men and women much younger, and a few that are his own contemporaries, with the challenge of giving your very best until at least you break the 'tape' at the finish line. I'll give a brief daily re-cap/reflection each evening of what I picked up in the class, starting tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, the weather in Denver looks good this week; at least up through week's end when I return home. Last year, my class was held at a retreat center in the mountains above Boulder, and the week was full of cold, blowing snow, and getting sick such that I had to return to Nashville early. Praying for good health this week - for you and me - and praying that your new year is starting out with reason to know God loves you!