A New Season

“We saw the handwriting on the wall…”, some of my co-workers commented today as I announced to them a transition I’m making.

I guess they’re right. I’m just glad they’ve been so supportive.

Yesterday I submitted notice to Northwest University of my resignation and movement into full-time ministry, beginning December 1st. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but God has been blessing me greatly over these past 3 months and I’m excited to share more of that journey with you.

Normally, I wouldn’t share something like a letter of resignation publicly, but it shares with you what my last 6 years at NU have been for me. Here’s a quote:

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with a heavy heart, yet an excitement about God’s plans for my future, that I submit to you my letter of resignation today. My last day of full-time employment with Northwest University is set for November 28, 2014.
My journey with NU began April of 2007, when I first stepped foot on our campus as a prospective student attending a Northwest Friday visit event. That sunny spring day was the same day that I knew Northwest would be my home for the few years to come.

I attended NU from August of 2009 to May of 2012, earning my B.A. in Music and a minor in Communications. Though I felt I was supposed to immediately head into full-time music ministry, it was clear that God had other plans for my life. 2 weeks after walking the stage and receiving my diploma at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, I received a call from Victoria Clark, Director of Human Resources at Northwest University. Her phone call was a direct answer to prayer and taught me that God’s timing is perfect in every way.

I went on to spend a year as the Office Coordinator for Financial Aid Services from May of 2012 to June of 2013. I deeply enjoyed the work I was able to do in that department, and the incredible team I got to be a part of. It was clear to me (and others), however, that I was best suited for recruiting, mentoring, and walking with students through the process of enrolling at NU. I transferred to my current role as an Enrollment Counselor for Traditional Admissions and have enjoyed the blessings and challenges of every moment since June 10th, 2013.

Though my time at Northwest University will soon be coming to an end, I know that God will keep NU near to my heart as he guides my future. I’m confident that NU will continue to be a place that effectively equips its students for a Christ-centered career, no matter where that may lead, and I will always boast of my time here.

Excited for the future,

Doug Harkness
Enrollment Counselor
Northwest University

So where am I going next? The short answer: not far. I’ll be working full time with newlife church (on the Kitsap Peninsula) leading music for one of their 6 campuses, and assisting the Creative team with projects and communication. I’ll also be working with an organization called Walk in the Light International, where I’ll get the opportunity to work with a team that’s all about showing Jesus to the people of Burkina Faso. All of these excite me for the future!

Can I ask you for something?
I need your prayers during this transition. There’s a lot to accomplish these next few weeks as I prepare to hand things off to my successor. I also know I’m barely skimming the surface of emotions I will feel as I move away from the place I’ve been for so long. Pray for God’s peace, patience, and provision. Without Him, these days to follow would be some of the roughest.

If you want to follow me on this new journey, I’d love it if you’d follow my
blog. I’m getting better about posting here, and invite you to keep up with me here. You can also keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Thanks so much for your support and prayers! Love you all.

-Doug

Perfect Timing

It’s a phrase we use often.

“Oh my gosh, perfect timing!  I was just planning to call you,” we say as we answer our phones.

“My mail-order shoes got here in perfect timing for the wedding I’m going to tonight.”

“Hey you made it!  Perfect timing!”

Do these really qualify for “perfect timing”?  Or are we just used to characterizing them by our limited, human standards?  When God waits to open a door in your life for 2, maybe 3 years, do you tell him “Hey God, perfect timing!” when the door finally swings open and you walk through?

I think often in our lives as Christians we get caught up in trying to put the concept of “time” in a box.  Our fast-paced society tells us we should be able to get whatever we want, whenever we want.  NOW is used often, and WAIT is a lost concept.  Even in church services, this is evident — churches advertise 70-minute services hoping to attract a younger generation, and outline everything that one can expect in the course of said service so there are no “surprises” for anyone.  I understand the heart behind these methods, though I could argue alternative methods.  But I’ll save that for some other blog post….


The Bible has a lot to say about time.

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
-Ephesians 3:1

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.”
-Habakkuk 2:3

“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
-Mark 13:33

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
-2 Peter 3:8

Clearly, our timing is much different from God’s timing.  Scripture tells us that He knows the plans He has for us.  He planned every part of our lives before we were even conceived.  It’s important to remember even when we feel like something isn’t happening, or God isn’t working, that He is working more than we can see.  His plans are greater, and His timing is truly perfect.


There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt like God wasn’t working or making things happen.  One of those was during my last couple months in college leading into my first couple weeks as a college graduate.  I was a 21-year-old with a brand new Music degree, ready to take on the challenges of full-time worship ministry in a church.  I was so sure that I would go into ministry right out of college, so I looked high and low for all the opportunities I could.  

I applied to 16 different churches across the United States, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Tallahassee, Florida.  Of the 16, I heard back from 3.  Each had the same response: “We don’t think you’re the right fit for this position”.  They didn’t all use those same words, but the point was clear.

The mixture of rejection and the feeling that I wasn’t getting the chance to live out my calling was an emotion I had never experienced before.  I felt like less of a person, and thought perhaps my calling was some fake notion I had conceived in my head.  I started to doubt myself, my gifting, and worst of all, God.  Why wasn’t He doing anything?

It’s interesting looking back on times in your life and reflecting on what was learned from it.  I learned that churches are looking for a few more years of relevant experience before they hand you the title of Worship Pastor.  I learned that there were things I needed to work on in my own life before I could assume such a position.  I learned that God had other plans for me in that season of my life.

So I began to apply to other jobs, from Nordstrom’s to Northwest University.  I interviewed a couple times at Nordstrom’s, but ultimately through various circumstances wasn’t able to take a job there.  I applied to my alma mater, Northwest University, partially as a back-up plan and partially because I had the necessary qualifications and experience to where it really made the most sense.

I remember walking across the podium at my Graduation Commencement, holding my diploma in one hand and shaking the President’s hand with the other.  I remember stepping off the platform and walking slowly back to my seat, unsure of where I would be living a week, two weeks, even a month from that moment.  There were so many unknowns in my life, and as someone who is a mild control freak, this was a very difficult thing to handle.

The next day, I moved all of my belongings into a new campus apartment, where I would spend the rest of the month.  I gave myself an ultimatum — if I didn’t have a job by the end of the month, I would move home.  This gave me great motivation to get a job FAST.  I didn’t see much opportunity waiting for me at home, in a rural area where the nearest town is 25 minutes away.

The following week, I interviewed for the Financial Aid position at Northwest.  By this point, I had applied everywhere I could find with openings.  I simply wasn’t hearing back from anyone.  So, I spent the next week after the interview binge-watching TV shows with my phone sitting next to me.  I’d glance down at it every couple minutes, waiting and waiting for a phone call that would tell me if I would be hired.

May 16, 2013 at about 10:30 AM, my phone started to ring.  The number was familiar — a Northwest number!  I answered the phone with a bit of a tremble to my voice.  On the other line was the Director of Human Resources, asking me how soon I could start.  I hung up the phone with the biggest smile on my face!  I had always known that I would eventually come back to work at NU, but never imagined it would happen so soon!  


I often reflect on this particular season of my life, because it is a reminder to me that I am not in control, but I know the One who is.  This story gives me confidence in letting go of my circumstances and trusting in His timing.

In the past two and a half years since that day I got the job at NU, I’ve gone through a few similar situations in various aspects of my life, where I wasn’t sure what would happen next, and needed to rely on God’s timing.  In all of those situations, I’ve never been disappointed with the outcome.  In fact, it’s always been better than I’d imagined.

…stay tuned for part two later this week… 

Goals & Motives

This morning I took the time to journal out some goals for 2014 in the area of music. I wanted to set some priorities and things I can work toward over the coming months. God has called me to lead others into worship, and while this is somewhat of a vague calling, it is clear that I need to be growing in this area more every day.  If I don’t grow, I will become stagnant.

After I finished setting some goals, I still didn’t feel satisfied.  It took me a few minutes to pinpoint the feeling, but once I did it made complete sense.  At the end of my 7-point list, I wrote 2 sentences that I feel should define me, and every other Christ-follower for that matter:

As a 20-something emerging worship leader, I must strive first and foremost for Christ-likeness in all that I do, so that everyone might see a glimpse of Christ in me.  Everything else is secondary and will come more easily if I attend to this first.

If my life becomes a never-ending pursuit of material possessions or selfish wants, without any motive rooted in Christ, then my life becomes a never-ending pursuit of vanity.  How can I glorify my Saviour, my joy-bringer and life-giver, if I am constantly unsettled? While it is good to set goals and work to achieve them, if they are done to better one’s self instead of to bring glory to God, those goals are not worth achieving. One of the chief responsibilities of man is to bring glory to our Creator in everything we say and do.

God is calling us to pursue him.  In everything.  Identify an area that needs growth and pursue Him first.  He will work everything out and bless you beyond belief.

The Grace and Provision of God

This morning, I am sitting in the dining room of my parents’ house near Bellingham, WA, in awe of the beautiful sunshine surrounding me, reflecting on the beauty of God’s grace and provision.  I love thinking back to where I was just one year ago — one month away from being a college graduate, buried beneath homework and final projects, graduation prep, and job applications, as well as the event planning and responsibilities of my Apartment Rep. position.

Today, I have been out of college for 10 months.  I’ve held a full-time job at my alma mater helping students for just as long.  I’ve moved to Renton and become a part of New Life Church where I get to lead junior highers in worship and help out in other ministries.  I’m raising money to go on my first missions trip to Barrow, Alaska.  

It is truly an amazing feeling when you walk in the plans that God has for your life.  I’m often overwhelmed with a sense of peace and joy that surpasses my human understanding, and I am so thankful for that.  Yes, sometimes it’s a battle of the mind to keep from trying to work things out in my own strength, but after experiencing God lead me through various circumstances I quickly come back to the knowledge that He is in control.

People sometimes ask me if my plans for my future career have changed, if I’ve given up the dreams of becoming a Worship Pastor, if I’m bummed that I haven’t gotten there yet.  I would be lying if I said I never thought about this.  However, God is quick to remind me that there’s a time and place for everything.  I know that He will eventually guide me to a church that needs someone with my exact gifts and abilities, at just the right time.  For now, though, I am so incredibly thankful to have a job that pays well and provides great benefits, thus enabling me to continue to grow in my gifts/abilities by serving in my local church.  It’s been an incredible time of growth for me, and when I look back I realize that I wouldn’t have been nearly as prepared a year ago as I am now, or as much as I will be a year, 5, even 10 years from now!

In all of this, I am reminded during this Easter season that my story would be a LOT different without the death of Jesus for my sins, and his power to overcome the grave when he rose on the third day.  Without Jesus, I’m not sure where I would be today.  This Easter, I pray that you take the time to reflect on where the Lord has brought you from, and where He is gently leading you to.  Are you walking in His grace and provision today?

Let Go and Let GOD

Sounds so cliché, right?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say “Let go and let God”, I’m pretty sure I would now be a millionaire.

But the funny thing is, I was reminded this past week just how spot-on this short and simple phrase really is.  If you know me, you know I like to have a clear plan and strategy in place.  This is how I hoped my life would be after graduation, but if you know anything about God, you know He likes to test your ability to follow Him on blind faith.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  -Jeremiah 29:11

One commonly-used Bible verse, yet it was my reminder that HE was guiding me, and even though I couldn’t see what was ahead, I needed to trust that HE did.  And you know what?  It wasn’t easy.  I’m not the most trusting person.  It was a lesson I believe the Lord was walking me through, and eventually I got to a place where I fully gave up all control.  I let go and let GOD.

Can I tell you how much freedom there is in that?  Once you stop trying to organize your life by your own strength, once you stop trying to plan and strategize, there is such a weight that is lifted off of you!  I experienced this freedom at no better place than a Senior High Camp on a Wednesday evening in late July, during a time when I was ministering to students.  That’s another great thing about God, how He isn’t one-track-minded–He wasn’t solely concerned with changing those students’ lives that night, he was equally concerned with altering my own reality and changing my life.

Needless to say, as soon as I gave my plans over to God, he opened doors that I had no idea would be opening, and has me excited for the future more than ever before.  I love this journey of faith He has me on!  It’s never dull, it takes me out of my comfort zone and stretches me to do things I never thought I could do, and gives me passion to carry out His calling on my life.

What are you trying to hold on to?  What are you trying to figure out?  What is that thing in your life that you need to simply release and give to the One who is in control of all?  LET GO AND LET GOD!  You won’t regret it.

 

This song was a gentle reminder of where my focus really needed to be:
“God I Look To You” by Bethel Live (Jenn Johnson)

Be Still…

I’m the type of person who easily stresses or worries over things.  I’m a control freak, a neat freak, an organizational maniac, and a perfectionist–and then some.  I believe there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.  I also feel anxious when I see someone doing something that I think I could do better.

In this season of my life, I’m finishing up my last semester of school, beginning to ease my way out of my current jobs as I search for a career, trying to maintain friendships and other relationships, and trying to stay firmly rooted in Scripture and prayer.  Many times I’m overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to accomplish in a day.  But God, in his sovereign power, reminds me often of the simple reminder in Scripture:

“Be still, and know that I am God…”  -Psalm 46:10

This piece of truth is enough to settle me down, to help me focus and prioritize, and to ultimately know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that HE is GOD and is in control of my life.  I don’t need to be worried about where I go after college because He’s got a plan.

Rest in Him today, and find true Peace in your life.

Reflections

Today has given me multiple opportunities to reflect on the past 3 years I’ve spent at Northwest University.  I came here with absolutely no clue that I’d be in the place I am today; and though sometimes it’s easy to think I have missed out on some things I wish I could’ve done, I constantly remind myself how incredibly blessed I have been.

Many people have told me that I spread myself too thin, and while at times I think they may be right, I actually wouldn’t change that one bit.  If I hadn’t spread myself, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in drama, music, Residence Life, and Campus Ministries, while gaining work experience in the Admissions Office and in a church music department.  It may have been hard, but I managed to juggle everything and persevere to the end.  As a result, I have a range of experience that enables me to get other jobs outside of music–if I can’t find a music position in a church right out of college, I can find a job that lines up with some of my other experiences.

There are so many pieces of advice I’d pass on to underclassmen, or anyone getting ready for college and all that comes along with it, but one thing that I really want to emphasize: Don’t be afraid to try new things!  I never thought I’d be a part of Residence Life, but God opened a door for me to be a Community Builder one year, then another door to be an Apartment Representative.  The wealth of maturity and experience I gained from those roles will stay with me and help in ministry, or any other adventures that life brings me through.  If you’re open and willing to the plans that God has for you, He will be faithful and will truly blow your socks off!!  Sounds incredible cliche, but that just means it’s TRUTH.