Arno River, Florence, Italy; June 2019

I was raised in Colby, Kansas, (far northwestern Kansas) out near the Kansas/Colorado border, where the arid wind always blows.  Colby is 235 miles east of Denver, CO, and 400 miles west of Kansas City. It’s out in the High Plains in the middle of nowhere. 🙂

I am the second of 5 kids. Dad and mom were hard-working people, who always tried to treat people the way they wanted to be treated. They both grew up on farms on the Kansas High Plains. Neither was afraid to put in a full day’s work. We always went to church on Sunday, and everyone was expected to work hard. My dad used to joke that his favorite verse in the Bible was, “Work harder!”

From the time I was 8 my Grandma (my mother’s mom) lived with us. My grandfather died at age 65, and my parents welcomed my Grandma Jennings right it to our home. We were 5 kids, 2 parents, the dog and grandma. Grandma helped cook, discipline the kids, helped with all the family chores, and let us watch TV with her. She made homemade bread that we ate with her homemade jam.

In 1978 I married Jennifer Earles in Phoenix, Arizona. She was raised in Phoenix and still loves the Sonoran Desert. Her favorite hike is in the Superstition Mountains, that border Phoenix on the east. After getting married on a hot desert morning on July 8, we drove from Phoenix to Champaign-Urbana, IL, where we still live.

I served as a campus pastor for more than 20 years. Along the journey I  went through graduate school at the University of Illinois and really got to know the church and campus life in this small university city. Today, Jennifer is a faculty member in the college of Media at the University of Illinois, where, depending on the semester, she teaches Science writing, editing, news-reporting and Introduction to Journalism.

After my campus ministry days, I worked for 3 years in administration for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and then spent about 6 years serving in a large Vineyard Church in Urbana [2,500], doing pastoral care.

For the last 10 years I have directed a ministry to pastors, a small nonprofit called Pastor-to-Pastor Initiatives. Mostly I meet with pastors and Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay the course. I counsel, mentor, coach, preach in churches, and occasionally serve congregations as their interim pastor. This ministry a good fit for me. I have had the honor of serving more than 200 pastors. Jennifer and I have led about 20 marriage retreats specifically geared toward pastors, and I lead seminars for church staffs discovering an emotionally healthy ministry.

Jennifer and I like to hike together, and I enjoy writing the Sunday religion column for the Champaign-Urbana, IL, News-Gazette.


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