J. Richard. Lewis, L.S.M.., M.Div., (and finishing PhD in education at Kent State)
AKA: Rev. Jim, Chaplain Lewis [OH Army National Guard, Chaplain (Major)], PJ (Pastor Jim), JJ (Just Jim), my mom still calls me Jimmy, “Jimbo” is reserved for brother and sister, or “call me anything, just don't call me late for dinner!”
A long time ago in a galaxy (or at least a state) far, far away, I was born at a very young age... Youngest of four children growing up in Florida, PK (preacher's kid) until my dad left the ministry a drunk, and PK again (mom, brother, wife and I all started seminary at the same time in 1988). I grew up in the United Methodist Church, which lived out its calling to be the Body of Christ in this world in the midst of my dad's alcoholism. For a time we were barely shy of being homeless and didn't know where the next meal was coming from-- yet God through the church carried us through.
I started my illustrious career flipping burgers at McDonalds where I learned a great work ethic that stays with me today (“if you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean...” with the bywords of Quality, Service, Cleanliness shaping everything...), and worked my way all the way up to scraping tar off the sidewalk and doing the stock truck. Great for my career, BUT not so great for my relationship with God. Joined the Navy after high school, where God finally got my attention while sitting in an empty barracks in the Philippines waiting on an early discharge. Romans 8:28 and 8:38 became my beacons through dark times.
Went to college in FL starting to explore a life of ministry. Worked at a church camp where I met a really cute girl with whom I thought I'd have a “summer fling.” Didn't work out that way-- after 3 years of dating then courtship, we married, and 25 years later after a roller coaster of ups and downs, my “summer fling” is still getting better (though I don't claim yet to really understand her very well...).
After exploring then pursuing our calling to ministry, we both started seminary in 1988, which is where our adventure and challenges really began. Our marriage almost didn't survive, but PRAYER literally brought us through. We served in a variety of church settings while in school, and four local churches full time after seminary. Served in campus ministry at Kent State where I joined the Army Reserves as a Chaplain, have had two deployments to Iraq, and am preparing for a third to Kuwait.
Along the way and after other struggles, we brought two beautiful children into the world, a daughter who is quite the athlete, now age 15, and a son, quite the intellectual and dealing with Asperger's Syndrome, now 17. For almost ten years now, Darling Wife has been on two different church staffs running their Christian Education and children's ministries, currently serving as Christian Education Director at Cuyahoga Falls First United Methodist Church. Our directions in ministry, though differing greatly in context, are both build firmly around common themes of spiritual formation.