Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Weep For Tommy

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Thomas L. Latham, 23, of Delmar, Md., died March 11 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

So read the press release from the Pentagon today. Sgt. Latham was known to me as simply Tommy. I was his youth pastor until halfway through his junior year in high school when I moved out of youth ministry. As a pastor there are certain people that are a joy to be around and to work with. And I hope I'm not bursting any bubbles here but there are others that you ask God for more grace to deal with. Tommy was the former. I genuinely liked Tommy and enjoyed being around him. He was a kid that was lots of fun, had a great attitude and was incredibly easy going. He didn't just show up for the fun stuff. He was there for the service projects and missions trips too. Tommy was a great guy. While he was a good looking young man and always took care of himself, he didn't worry about being up to date with all the latest clothing fads. He wasn't afraid to work hard and liked to hunt with his Dad. Tommy was what you would call a "man's man."

My memories of Tommy are of him bringing a turkey call to youth group one night and freaking all of us out because we couldn't figure out where that sound was coming from. I remember long van rides with Tommy and other young men and women of our youth ministry. I remember his Mom saying to him, Let's go Tommy Lee. Only she would say it so fast that it would come out, "Let's go Tommalee." I remember a missions trip to Hepzibah Children's Home when he was so proud to do some masonry work because he was the son of a mason. I also remember that he was a good brother to his little sister.

My most important memory of Tommy was that he gave his heart to Christ. I'd be lying if I told you I remember the exact moment that he responded to Christ's call but I know that he did. Tommy lived the kind of life that bore witness to a life in Christ. I had been on enough long trips and spent enough time with Tommy that there was no doubt where his heart stood.

I titled this post, I Weep For Tommy, but that isn't really true. I weep for his young wife and two kids that are left behind. I weep for his little sister and parents that have lost their only son. I weep for his friends and love ones; we've lost this laid back, fun-loving, and big hearted young man. I guess I weep for us.

I don't understand this world sometimes. I don't understand why evil people live and good people like Tommy don't. I don't understand why some people that don't add a bit of goodness to the world die of old age and someone like Tommy that had so much to offer and was concerned with serving others dies young. It doesn't make sense but in the midst of the turmoil I have to trust that God understands. I have to trust that He knows the pain that those who have lost so much are going through. Most of all I trust that God has welcomed Tommy into His arms.

God, thanks for allowing me to know Tommy Latham and to have a small part to play in the man that he was. Please comfort his wife and two small children. Please take care of those little ones. Please comfort his family and loved ones. And God, I thank you that Tommy knew you. Thank you for allowing his faith to be made sight. Please remind those that are hurting that we can see Tommy again if we respond to you like he did. Thank you for his life, his example of service, and the impact that he had on all of us.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Here's what I'm up to

Okay, I'm finally going to post something that has some substance on this thing. My life has been quite a whirlwind over the last year or so. I thought it would be good to share some of it.

Well over a year ago I started wondering if I was making the best impact for the kingdom being a pastor. I had been having feelings of unrest for a good while. They were very similar to the feelings I had when it was time to move out of youth ministry. I had always dreamed of being a college professor. I enjoy working with college age people more than any others over my 15 years of local church ministry. The only problem about me being a college professor is that I lack a whole LOT of education. I was an attrocious undergrad student. I was more concerned with sleeping in and messing around than actually being serious about my academic career. I started a master's program at IWU in the fall of 2003 and after completing 34 hours of a 36 hour program I have a 4.0 GPA. That told me that when I was serious about my academics I could do well.

After much prayer, soul searching, sleepless nights, and hours of conversation with my wife, mentors, etc. I decided that I was going to head back to school. I had been doing the IWU program while still being a full time pastor. Because of my age and how long it takes to get all the way through a doctorate we decided that I needed to resign as a pastor and pursue academics full time. I applied to Duke Divinity School and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. I was admitted to both of them and then the soul searching began all over again. Duke is a more prestigious school to be sure. I was honored simply to be admitted there. Gordon Conwell is no slouch either and I was impressed with it through Dave Drury and Larry Wilson who attended there. After visiting both schools and being very impressed with both of them Sharie and I were convinced that Gordon Conwell was going to be the place for me.

My last Sunday at my church as July 2, 2006. We planned to leave for South Hamilton, Mass. (in the Boston area) for the fall semester of 2006. Long story short — our house didn't sell until October so we could afford to go until the spring semester of 07. But then the folks at GCTS let me know that if I started in the spring it would mess up my schedule. GCTS is very specific about the order of certain classes that you take and some of those are only offered in the fall. So the fall semester of 2007 it is.

My first goal is to complete a master of divinity degree. Whether I ever become a professor or if God is going to call me back into pastoral ministry I know the Mdiv degree will serve me well. If I still feel strongly that God is leading me toward the professor thing then I'll go on for further schooling. Possibly a ThM and then a PhD.

So where we are now is living in a small cabin that we own in northern Michigan. I am taking classes through GCTS online while we are here. I am taking as many of the stand alone type classes that don't have pre-requisites as I can. Sharie is doing her graphic design work with the company that we own, Maxim Design Group. She will continue to do that while I am in school. I am a student and Mr. Mom. We are enjoying our time at the cabin and having some amazing bonding time with our two year old daughter, Kate. We are on an adventure to be sure. God is good and we're excited about what is happening now and what is to come in the years ahead.