“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21
As a child growing up in Helena, Montana, I had many plans about my future. I wanted to be an NBA basketball player, a pastor, the president, and later (more seriously) a dentist. I know it is quite the spread.
During my undergraduate years, I studied Biology while in full pursuit of a career in dentistry. After graduating from Gonzaga in 2011, I applied for and then served as the Youth Coordinator, here at St. Luke Lutheran Church. My stated plan was for this to be a one-year position to bridge the gap year as I applied to dental school. My top five dental schools, my life plan, and direction felt set.
And then as I began serving in this position something started stirring up in me spiritually. The message came in two forms. It came from within as I began imagining myself at the pulpit proclaiming Christ crucified. I began to wonder and ponder if that was actually my call. But more profoundly, it came from brothers and sisters in Christ, who began to name gifts they saw in me for a future in ministry. Soon those two callings (internal and external) began to be something that I could no longer ignore or even hold back.
So, dental applications were withdrawn as I then applied at Luther Seminary. After further discernment, I was accepted and then enrolled in Luther's Distributive Learning program. This program allows students to remain where they are and take classes both online and doing intensive coursework on campus in January and June. That program allowed me to continue in my role as Youth coordinator while attending seminary. One of the blessings of that was the opportunity to apply learnings from the classroom into context at church. Youth have a great way of pointing out the heart of a theological matter. It felt like taking a chemistry class while also getting to experiment learnings in the lab. It was the learning about alongside the hands-on, doing learning environment.
During seminary, I met and later married my wonderful wife, Curyn from here in Spokane. We were married in the fall of 2018. After about one year of marriage and for the final year of seminary, we moved to Vancouver, Washington. There I served my yearlong internship at Messiah Lutheran Church and Preschool. That spring, I graduated from seminary (digitally due to the global pandemic).
Over that coming summer God would be up to something else unexpected and exciting. Through the generosity of the congregation, the discernment of the region’s bishops and the call of the church, I was called, ordained and serve now as pastor at St. Luke Lutheran Church.
As I look, back it is incredible to see the ways that God’s plans for my life panned out in ways that I could not have expected. Indeed, God’s purposes prevail in whichever vocations we are called to as we live receptive lives out of the abundance of God’s grace.
Your brother in Christ,
Pr. Taran Denning