Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Church Involvement

I like to tell people that I was a Southern Baptist before I was born and than I became a Christian later.  It is true that I heard the gospel many times before I was even born and I grow up hearing it at home and at church.  Since my father was a minister church was a regular part of my life and still is today.

There are many preachers in my family both from my father’s side and my mother’s side of the family.  All of my siblings have felt a call into ministry.  My sister leads music in church and speaks at conferences.  My little brother is an ordained minister like myself and he is in seminary in Denver.  My older brother felt God call him into ministry when he was young.  I’ve often thought he would make a better pastor than me.  He is very gifted and I am sure that God is not finished with him yet.

My First Bible

The first bible I remember getting was a Christmas gift from my mom and dad in 1977.  It was a red leather, New American Standard Study Bible.  I still have it today although it is not in very good shape.  It was used by God to bring me a long way in my faith.

I do write in my bibles sometimes.  I will underline a verse that means a lot to me or make a note about some insight to the word that I do not want to forget.  Often I stick little post it notes in my bible with thoughts or notes for preaching.  I have many bibles and I often give them away to other.

One of my favorite bibles is one that was carried by a missionary to Africa who was later a pastor in New Mexico.  His granddaughter gave it to me before she died of old age.  She called it the Missionary Bible.  Sometimes I like to hold it and think of the places that it has gone to and all the people who have heard the truth of God by hearing it read.


Someone asked me once if I had a good salvation testimony.  I was a little taken aback by this question.  Aren’t all salvation stories good?  People have a misconception about what a testimony is about.  My salvation testimony is not about Alvin Kerry Chadwick.  It is about the One who saved Alvin Kerry Chadwick.  It is also about the incredible faith of my parents.  Many people are old when they realize their need for a savior and turn their lives over to Jesus Christ.  That didn’t happen to me.  At the very young age of five years old I came to see my need for Jesus.  At a tent revival that my father was leading in Picacho Hills, New Mexico, I walked down the dirt aisle and took my father by the hand and prayed to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

It was easy to see my need for Jesus because I had heard my parents talk about it all the time.  But a life in Jesus was not just something that my parents talked about but it was something that they modeled.

As a child my faith was very simple as I have grown in age and faith I have learned more about the depth of God’s love and more about what it all means.  However, no matter how much I learn, I am amazed at the simplicity of salvation that a five year old can accept Jesus Christ.  Oh, what an incredible testimony that God would love the world so much that He would send His only Son to come and save people from their sins.  Oh, that more parent would model the love of Christ in their lives.  Oh, that all people would accept Jesus Christ as their savior at a young age and give their lives to Him.  Life would be so much better if they would.

Seminary and the Gulf War

Deanna and I were married in May of 1990.  Shortly after this we moved to Fort Worth, Texas to attend seminary.  These were difficult times for Deanna and me.  It started out hard from the get go.  After just a few weeks of school I was failing in all of my classes.  I had never been a great student but seminary was so hard.  What I could not understand was why God called me to seminary if I was just going to fail.

I remember one day in particular.  I had a professor who was amazing to listen to.  As Dr. Spivey would speak about church history I would sit enthralled at the way that God had worked through the church in times past.  In fact I could have set and listened to him all day for days he was that interesting.  However, this was the class that I was doing the worst in.  I really saw no hope for me in this class.  I went and spoke with Dr. Spivey.  He didn’t seem very concerned or interested in my problems with his class.

After one test I went home and cried for hours to God asking him why he would bring me to this place to fail.  I asked God for a sign – something that would let me know that he really wanted me to stay in seminary.  I’d decided that if I didn’t get a definite sign from God that I would drop out.

The next day in class Dr. Spivey got up and said that he was a chaplain in the Army Reserves and that he had received order to go to Sadi Arabia for Desert Shield.  He told us that his teaching assistant and grader Karen Bullock would be our instructor for the rest of the semester.  He then left the room.

When he left Mrs. Bullock got up and explained how she would conduct the class.  I remember her saying that since she graded differently than Dr. Spivey that our grades up to that point would be thrown out and that we would be graded on what we did for her for the rest of the semester.  A cheer went up in the class and I realized that I was not the only student that was struggling.  It was a great encouragement and I started to wonder if the conflict in the gulf had been started so God could give me a sign about staying in school.  I realize that God uses all things for His good purposes. 

Rom 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Col 1:16-17  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  (17)  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

However, I continued to do poorly in school and so I went to see Mrs. Bullock, now Dr. Karen Bullock.  She listened very carefully to me and asked me many questions about my calling and experiences with school.  God used her to change my life.  No one had ever told me that I was a visual learner.  However, Mrs. Bullock was able to discern this as well as other things about my learning practices.  She gave me advice that helped me make it through seminary.  She pointed out to me that I didn’t test well and that I would do better if I took classes that weighed heaver on papers than tests.  By talking to other students and professors I was able to find out which professor graded more heavily on papers and take their classes.  The next semester I received my first “A” in seminary, in Dr. Putt’s philosophy of religion class.  In this class we typed one paper a week and did two major papers at midterm and at the end of the semester but no tests.  (Years later I would learn that I have A.D.D.  I have learned many coping skills but still struggle with this condition today.)

I will never forget how this woman cared about each of her students and how she mentored me.  Many of the things that I have been able to do in minister are due in large part to her taking time for a young seminary student and helping him find a way.  I am forever grateful for the Gulf War and Karen Bullock.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Abigail's Birth

Our second child, Abigail, was born when we were in Harlingen, Texas. I was a Chaplain resident in Clinical Pastoral Education while concurrently serving as a chaplain at ValleyBaptistMedicalCenter. The pregnancy was normal and well going into the delivery. We planned the delivery date because Deanna had to have a C-section.

For years I had wanted to have a family with lots of children: somewhere between six and twelve - and then, I had a child. I never imagined how much work one little child could be. So, we decided that Abigail would be our last child. This being our second child, I was more interested in the operation than the miracle of birth. So, after Abigail was pulled out of the womb, I became fascinated with the procedure that would keep Deanna from getting pregnant again.

The doctor was pointing out things about my wife’s anatomy and explaining what he was doing when a nurse came and asked me if I could come out with her to the other room. I was thinking that this had something to do with my role as a chaplain in the hospital. When I walked into the room they started talking to me about Abigail. It was not really sinking in with me that there was a problem until the neonatal specialist walked in and was only there a couple of seconds when she said something and the next thing I know, they are running down the hall with my new baby girl and I am chasing them.

When they got into the neonatal unit, they asked me to go to the other room but I wouldn’t go.After all, I was a chaplain in the hospital and was used to being present for all sorts of emergencies. They threatened to have security remove me when my boss showed up and took me by the arm into the waiting room. He explained that my presence would make the doctors nervous and I would want them to be at their best while they were caring for my child. They were in the process of intubation. Intubation is “a process where they put a tube through the vocal cords and into the windpipe of a patient in order to provide a patient’s lungs with oxygen.”

So, I did what fathers and parents all over the world do: I waited in the waiting room praying and waiting. Although I was praying, it was much later that day before I called to ask others to pray. Things were happening too fast for me to process and I was still in too much shock to grasp the significance of all that was going on.

Abigail was born with Hyland Membrane disease. Disease is really a misnomer here. Condition would be a better why to explain what my little girl had. It is where a full term baby is born with immature lungs. The treatment for Hyland Membrane disease had only been out for a few years when Abigail was born. In fact, before this treatment almost all children born with this condition died. As if this wasn’t enough, she also had pneumonia and a hole in her heart. Of course, it took a while to discover all this stuff so the first three weeks of her life were spent in the neonatal unit.

Deanna was in recovery and would not discover what was going on for quite a while. I was so wrapped up with Abigail that I did not go to see Deanna and fill her in. When I did go by to see her they had her so drugged up that she really was not with it. It was a the next day before Deanna was able to even see the baby.

They wouldn’t let us touch Abigail because we were over stimulating her with our touch and she was fighting the medicine. Abigail was 9 lbs 4 oz. when born and was quite the fighter. They needed her to be still and sleeping to give her body time to recover, so they put her in a drug-induced coma. They could not tell us what the long term effects of this would be or what the affect of being intubated for so long would be. It was a hard time for us. They didn’t know what to do with us because we always wanted to be there with our baby. We also wanted them to explain everything that they were doing and at least one of the nurses did not want to explain stuff to us. We were not going to be dissuaded from knowing everything we could learn. I guess we were not the norm in this neonatal unit. Many of the patients in here had parents who were actually from Mexico, so they couldn’t stay in the States with their baby, or some of the babies were born addicted to drugs and had parents who didn’t want to be there for them. However, we are so thankful to God for the amazing doctors and nurses of the Valley Baptist Medical Center!If it had not been for their quick, proficient diagnosis and professional care of our daughter, she would not be with us today.

Thirteen years later you wouldn’t know that my daughter ever was on the brink of death moments after coming into this world. She is a beautiful, talented, strong, healthy, vibrant, young woman. I am so proud to call her my daughter.

Timing is an amazing thing. If Abigail had been born in a hospital that did not have a neonatal unit or one with a less efficient staff, she would at best have brain damage from lack of oxygen but probably would not have lived. But God in his infinite wisdom decided that this miracle child would live. This bright intelligent child - I cannot help but think that God has very big plans for her and her life.

“I know my plans for you, says the Lord . . .

Monday, June 8, 2009

Under the Piano

My mother is such a good pianist.  She can play anything and she can do it so amazingly well.  I’ve always been proud to be her son for so many reasons and one of these many reasons is her mastery of the piano.  If fact, some of my fondest memories are under the piano.  It was under the piano that I first heard Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Chopin, and Bach.

Probably the most moving of these experiences was the hymns.  I don’t know if it was my connection or my mom’s connection with God.  Maybe it was both of these.  You see music truly is the language of the soul and when you put words with the music it adds a new dimension to what the music means to you.  How can you not be moved by words like, “just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me . . . ?”  The God of the universe loved a sorry messed up person like me so much that He gave His only precious Son so that He could have me safe with Him and He takes me just as I am.  I don’t have to change before He will take me.  Once I surrender to Him, He will change me from the inside out - just like He fashioned me in my mother’s womb so He fashions me from inside my heart to make me more like Him.

“Amazing grace how sweat the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”  Oh how much I see since accepting God and His gift for me.  It was in my parents that I first saw the truth of God.  They are living testaments of what it means to be Christian.

One of the ways that this was manifested to me was through my mom’s dedication during the early years of her lupus.  It wasn’t just that she would continue to play in church when she did not feel like doing it but that she would do it with such emotion and love.  I knew that she was hurting but on her face shone the smile of Jesus and in her eyes was the love of God and through her hands was found the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some memories are stronger than others but few are as sweet as those I found under the piano.  So, when times get hard mom and her piano make for wonderful encouragement. 

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

-Philippians 2:1 & 2

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Moving to Harlingen

Graduation from seminary in the spring of 1995 was a welcome relief from what Deanna and I called the valley of the shadow of death.  The seminary years were hard years.  The whole culture of Texas is so different from what we knew in New Mexico.  It was a hard adjustment.  Both of us liked Fort Worth and we even liked the seminary.  It was the Christian people that we had a hard time with.  So many hard things happened in that last year of school:  losing a church job (they asked me to leave – but that is another story for another time), financial problems (another long story – one I probably will not tell), rejection from another church opportunity in Oklahoma, and deep depression.

One of my professors suggested that I do a year of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education).  He thought it would help me get a grip on who I was and find my niche in ministry.  He had a friend in Harlingen, Texas who was a supervisor in CPE so he recommend me to his friend.

It is not the easiest program to get into, but they called me for an interview and I traveled down to Harlingen with Deanna.  Harlingen is way down at the bottom tip of Texas.  It is not the furthest south that you can travel and still be in Texas but it is close.  I was scared about what I would do if they didn’t hire me and I was scared about where we would live if they did hire me because it cost a fortune to live in Harlingen due to all the winter Texans.  Winter Texans are people who spend the winter months in south Texas and the summer months in northern states.

The interview went well and I was accepted into the program and hired as a full time chaplain at the hospital.  We looked around at places to live but the only places that we could afford were dumps.  We kept hanging on to the promise that He would provide.  So we prayed but we did not know what we would do.

Dad had asked me to check in with his old friend Dr. Rivera at the Valley Baptist Academy but I was anxious to get back up to Waco where we had left my one year old son, Kenneth, with my sister Audrey.  I didn’t like being away from my son.  So, we had decided that we would just take off and head back to Waco.  However, dad called before we left Harlingen and asked if we had gone by to see Dr. Rivera.  We said no and he told me that I really needed to go see him, that he might have a place that we could rent for not to much.

Dad seemed kinda forceful here, so off we went to see his friend.  It turned out that he had an unexpected opening in the girl’s dorm director position just the day before we got there and school was starting in two weeks.  Doctor Rivera was asking Deanna all these questions and both of us thought it was kinda strange until we figured out he was actually trying to see if she would be interested in the job.

So on the same day that I was hired as a chaplain for the Valley Baptist Medical Center, Deanna was hired as the girl’s dorm director for the Valley Baptist Academy.  This had some unexpected benefits for us.  For example,  we had to live in an apartment in the girl’s dorm so we did not have to pay utilities or rent.  We were required to eat with the girls in the school cafeteria so we didn’t have to buy groceries.  And Deanna received a $1000.00 a month.  What a deal!  Both of us grow close to the girls and we felt as if they were our own children. The girls loved our son Kenneth and everyone on campus watched out for him when he was out playing.   Even today we are in contact with many of them on Facebook and through the mail.

Our life was so blessed while living in Harlingen.  I learned so much about ministry and thoroughly enjoyed working with people in the hospital as a chaplain.  My CPE supervisor, John Teer, was one of the greatest influences of my life.  He taught me and blessed me more than I can express.  He helped me through one of the darkest times in my life and helped me to see the light again.

I overcame my depression and learned coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult situations.  And right before we moved away my daughter was born.  Her birth and the trauma that went with it are another story that I will share soon but for now I will say that in the dreaded state of Texas, God gave me two of the greatest gifts that I have ever been given:  my son Kenneth, and my daughter Abigail.

I praise God for his provisions for us.  God knows the plans He has for us and they are plans for welfare and not calamity plans to give us a future and a hope.  –Jeremiah 29:11  I am so glad that He does and He did. J