Prior to setting up this blog, I did some research around the ideal length for a blog post. The answers actually surprised me. Most “experts” say that the ideal length for a blog post is between 1,500 and 2,500 words! That seemed like a lot to me, but maybe it’s because I have the attention span of a small soap dish. Nevertheless, I’m going to trust the experts and see what happens. I hope it’s compelling enough to keep you reading. If you think it’s too long, let me know.
This past Friday (Aug. 3rd 2018) was the last day at my job of 19+ years—what appears to be the closing of the 31-year “professional” phase of my life. In a few weeks, I start the next chapter by going back to school.
What have I done? What am I thinking?!? Have I gone off the deep end? More on that later…
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Rob Kranz. I am 53 years old with a beautiful wife of 30 years and two really great sons—both in college. For all of my career I have been in the engineering software business. I started as an engineer, then moved into sales, then into management (both technical and commercial) and ultimately ended up as an executive managing a software product business in a Fortune 500 company. During my career, we lived overseas twice for extended periods of time. By any measure one would apply, I’ve had a very successful career.
I was practically born a Christian. My maternal grandfather was a Church of Christ preacher. My paternal great-grandfather was a Church of Christ preacher and his son (my grandfather) became a minister when he retired. From the time I was born, my family attended church services Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. Our church family and the Bible were integral parts of our daily lives. I’ve not written this to brag, but to say that I’ve never known any other sort of life than one firmly rooted in Jesus.
Throughout my life, teaching has been something that I have been drawn to—specifically teaching Bible classes. At our church in Austin, I teach a class on Sunday mornings. While there is a wide age range in the class, the average age is probably over 60. Teaching this group of people has been the blessing of a lifetime. I tell people that each Sunday there are probably 3,000 biblical study-years within this group of 80-100 people. If you plan to stand in front of them to teach, you better bring your “A-Game”. They have challenged me and made me a better student of God’s Word.
In 2014, I hit a major turning point. My wife and I took a trip to Israel to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. This trip rocked my world. The trip leader was Brad Gray. Brad classifies these trips as “Rabbinic” Biblical study trips. In essence, we would never know our schedule for the day. We would exit the bus in what often appeared to be the middle of nowhere and begin to hike— “following the rabbi”. We hiked 5-8 miles per day. In most cases, we had no idea where we were until we sat down to study the Word. Each lesson brought new light to the Word as we studied geographic, historical and cultural contexts of the Text. I was blown away. This time in Israel taught me to look at the Scriptures with fresh eyes, to look at the details and to ask new questions that often led to amazing insights that I had never noticed before.
In 2017, I took another trip with Brad to Turkey. The focus of this trip was on how the Apostles and early church changed the Greco-Roman world in less than 300 years. All of this further enhanced my love and passion for Jesus Christ, God’s Word and its practical application in our lives.
Needless to say, these trips changed the way I approached the Bible and how I taught it. Those who attended my classes saw an immediate change. Not only did they see an even greater passion for the Text from me, but they were drawn to engage it at a deeper level, challenging long-held/traditional interpretations of the Text.
Yet, the more I journeyed down this path, the more I felt there was something else I needed to be doing. It was around this time that a friend of mine was making a change in his career. He quoted an author (I don’t recall the name) who said, “People spend too much of their lives doing things they are good at and not enough time doing things they are great at. We need to stop doing the things we are just good at and focus our energies on the things we are great at!”
That statement resonated with me and resulted in some deep personal reflection. What was I great at? Was this really the focus of my efforts?
I came to the realization that while I was good at my job (some would say very good), I was a great Bible teacher. I based this determination not just on my own perceptions, but feedback I received from others and available empirical data (after all, I was trained as an engineer).
But what would it mean to focus all of my efforts on that? Well, it would mean I needed more formal education. Depending upon the level I wanted to teach, it might mean a PhD. How could I do that and still keep my job—which was demanding and required lots of travel? If I left my job, how could we make it work financially? After all, I have 2 kids in college!
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed impossible—at least at this stage in my life. Maybe I could wait a few years until the kids were out of college and I could retire. That would certainly be the safe and logical thing to do. But if I waited, would it be too late?
It was in the midst of this wrestling that I heard a voice in my head say, “Do you trust Me?” Now, before I lose most of you, I am not someone prone to hearing imaginary voices, nor do I think that God often speaks directly to me. But I can tell you with all certainty that I heard this voice saying, “Do you trust Me?” I thought about it. Did I trust Him? My answer was just as clear as the voice in my head. “No! I don’t!” Yet, the voice again said, “But do you trust Me?”
Coming to grips with this question and my response did not result in an immediate change of heart. For some time, I struggled with it. Slowly, but surely, I began to think “What if…” Were there options that I hadn’t considered? What if I took some radical—even illogical steps?
Throughout this process, I can tell you that I have come to a much greater appreciation for the father in Mark 9 who brings his son to Jesus to be healed. It’s clear the father has some doubts about what Jesus can do for his son. When challenged by Jesus about his faith, the father responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NIV) I used to think the father’s response was funny. Not anymore. I’ve come to understand just how he felt. Yet, Jesus healed his son in spite of his unbelief. That’s actually a pretty comforting lesson for me.
So, my wife and I began to pull together a plan to see if we could make this work. The real key was how to generate funds for the required education and still be able to live (and don’t forget the minor expense of getting our kids through college). We sold our home in Austin and bought a home a few miles further out of town. By doing this, we were able to get debt free and cut our monthly expenses drastically. It also freed up enough cash to ensure that the kids’ college fees were taken care of as well as provide sufficient funds to help me through this process. During this phase, we will live off of my wife’s teacher salary.
I can say that God has blessed us throughout this process. On the first day our house was on the market we received 5 offers. We ended up selling it well above our asking price. We found a nice home close to my wife’s school that was well within our price range. I was blessed to receive generous scholarships to both Universities I will attend. Everything (so far) has worked out better than we had planned.
In terms of my education plan, I plan to spend the next 2 semesters in Israel at Jerusalem University College. While there I will study the Hebraic roots of Christianity. I will then finish up a Master’s degree at Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology with a focus on Old Testament. After that? We will see what God has in store.
So, you might be wondering how I came up with the name for this blog site. Early in this process I was teaching my Sunday morning Bible class and I shared some of the struggles I was going through around this decision. After class a number of people came up to me to provide encouragement and support. However, one lady pulled me aside and reminded me of the story in Joshua 3 where the Israelites are crossing into the Promised Land for the first time. God instructs the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant and step into the Jordan river ahead of the people. She reminded me that, “God didn’t stop the waters of the Jordan river until the priests stepped into it.” Wise words.
In a few weeks I will step into the Jordan river both figuratively and literally. If I am honest with myself, I am still saying, “LORD, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”