Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Beginning

He wasn't sure how long he had been there. He felt relief and rest. For the first time in a very long time he prayed. The words didn't come easily at first, but soon they began to flow. From somewhere deep inside his heart he began to call out to the One whose words were written in Jeremiah 33:3. He waited for an answer but nothing came. Nothing except that first touch that startled him into thinking that someone was in the room with him. He looked again. No one was there. He stood and walked to the windows where the sun shone in delicately. The stained glass prevented him from seeing outside. He started to step into the foyer to get a better look through clear glass, but something pulled him back inside. He wasn't ready yet to leave the room. Something was happening inside his soul, and he was afraid. Afraid to leave and afraid to stay. He chose to stay. 

This time he picked a seat in the back of the room. He remembered his grandmother calling these wooden benches by a name. What was it? He thought for some time but couldn't remember. Nevertheless he reached down in the rack that was in front of him and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. It was a program of some kind. At the top was a date - last Sunday. Under the date he found what must have been the order that the program would follow. Something called a Call to Worship, followed by a Pastoral Prayer. What in the world was he seeing? The word pastor took him back to the slick speaker who stood before the crowd in the place where his wife had asked him to go a few months ago. He was polished and seemed to have all of the answers for life. That day he talked about steps to a healthy marriage. They hadn't worked, by the way. His marriage was in more of a crisis now than it had ever been. He tried each one of the steps. For forty days he worked on being a better man, a better husband, a better father. The harder he worked the worse he got. Now here he was off in the middle of some country place far removed from any civilization that he could see - except for this building at the end of the winding road. Others obviously travelled the road. The ruts in the dirt gave that much away. There was landscaping, and the room was well taken care of, but it seemed very simple. Not at all like the structure back in the town where he had a house, a yard, a car, a job, and a family. 

As he looked at the program he noticed that there was singing, an offering, and preaching. That seemed familiar to him for a couple of reasons. Back in history he remembered a time when he visited his grandmother, and she took him - or brought him - to church. Was this the place? The meeting he had been to months before back in the city had music and speaking and some people passing chicken buckets around asking for money. They prayed too. He remembered because at the end they said "Amen", the universal sign for everyone to open his eyes and focus on the front again.

He struggled to remember. Why could he not remember? This place must have been the place where his grandmother brought him. Back then it was uncomfortable, and he couldn't wait to get out. Now he felt safe, and he didn't want to leave. What happened next left him frightened and in awe.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Give Me That Old Time Religion

The conversation was quiet and broken. Whenever anyone walked through the door everything grew quiet - almost too quiet - as if the ability to speak had somehow vanished. Or maybe it was the ability to hear. Whatever was happening was worthy of investigation. The trouble was that investigation was impossible because investigation required presence and presence brought the silence. Of course the only ones who knew about the strong silence in the middle of presence were the other elements of the small, wood-frame building that his grandmother called her sanctuary. The pews, the piano, the songbooks, and the pulpit sat ominously in the room, a shadow of what used to be with a hope of what was still to come. Was there no way to find out what conversation was being had between the pieces of hardwood in the floor and the splinters in the rails? 

As he walked to the front of heritage he noticed a bench worn with odd shaped ruts just a few inches apart. Someone - or something - spent a lot of time in those spots. An urging of some kind seemed to draw him down to the bench where his knees smoothly settled into the grooves. The words of his grandmother came back gently. "The strength of a daddy depends on the length of time he spends on his knees." Of course. Now it made sense. A kneeling bench. He had never seen one before today, but the feel of this one made it seem so real. 

The room was so quiet and still. He decided to stay a little longer. He slowly and reverently moved to the second row of the room split into two sections by an aisle. Someone once said that brides used to walk down the aisle as a sign of some covenant between God and His people. He wasn't sure about the symbolism because he had not seen a center aisle. Actually he had never seen a building quite like this one before. The pull wouldn't let him leave. Second row it was. He reached into a rack in front of him and pulled out a book. Was the cover faded green or a dull gray? He couldn't tell. The light through the stained glass windows didn't make it clear. The edges of the book were red, but when he opened the book the pages were a worn and tattered brown. Square notes and lines made up the page with words between two lines of music. Four sets on some pages and five on others. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Reality hit him like his grandmother's hand pinching his leg when he used to fidget too much in the church he grew up in - one very different from this one.

He needed a mighty fortress right about now. The days had been hard lately. The world around seemed to be an unsettled place. The stress of bills piled high and sinkholes of cash. The kids were sick. Home was heaven, but sometimes it wasn't. The pressure of the customers was suffocating, and the sales director was pressing for another marathon that requires deeper breathing than is humanly possible. Driving down the long country rode earlier in the day he prayed as the dust covered his windows that he could somehow escape for a while. A fortress would do. A bulwark never failing. The sales pitch failed. His friends' marriage failed. His efforts at forgiveness and his attempts to be a good dad and husband failed as well. God. Fortress. Bulwark. Would he really never fail?

There was another book in the rack. This one was black with gold pages. He replaced the book with all of the notes and words and picked up the other book. As he opened it he knew immediately what it was. He had seen one by his grandmother's bed on the day she died. The front said "Holy Bible." He knew better, though. Mamaw called it "Sword." He always thought that was a strange name for a book full of stories from a long time ago, but when he picked it up he felt a sense of power run through his spine. He sat a little straighter. He looked around and felt a little stronger. For the first time he heard a voice. The voice was quiet and seemed to come from within the walls. The voice spoke softly but clearly. He opened the book, and the page seemed to come to life. Jeremiah. Was he a man? Did he write this book or was it about him? These numbers seemed to give some order to the pages. As he looked more closely he saw something that would change his life forever. His name. Written right there in the margin of one of the pages was his name - in his grandmother's handwriting. He felt a warmth and a presence he had not felt since the week before as he stood beside her casket with tears in his heart  - and his eyes. Next to his name, which now became the prominent part of the page, was a number. 3. Just above it was another number. 33. He remembered his grandmother showing him about the "Sword." The word at the top of the page was the book. The larger number was a chapter, and the smaller number was a song. No that wasn't it. A verse. Yes. That was it. A name, a chapter, and a verse. Jeremiah 33:3. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." The voice again. Call to God - the Mighty Fortress that Never Faileth - and He will answer thee.

Why had he never felt this way before? There was a place where his wife asked him to go one Sunday. It didn't feel like this. There was no reverence. No quiet. No books. Instead there was activity, noise, and screens. The sign said church, but there was something about this place that was different. The sign outside said church, too, but somehow it seemed that the building was not the most important part of this experience. The presence. The silence. The Presence.

He moved back to the benches and steadily lowered himself to his knees. He tried it. He called out - quietly, but out still the same. He called to the Mighty Fortress and asked for a passing grade as a dad and a husband. He asked for Someone that Never Faileth. While there on his knees he decided to stay there as long as he could. He now understood that his wife was partly correct. He did need religion, but it wasn't the religion of the crowd and lights and well oiled machine. He needed Mamaw's religion. He decided to fight for what she had, and the fight would start with her "Sword." Her hand reached out and touched his shoulder. "He answered you," she said. He turned to look, but no one was there. Had the walls spoken for the first time where there was presence? Decided. He wasn't leaving this place until he found what he needed to make it for the next forty years. Mamaw had a God, and he would find Him, even if he died on the journey.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Sad Day in the Neighborhood

Hibbler Street. That's the street I grew up on in West Point, Mississippi. I remember a time when everyone on the street knew everybody else. Those were the days when we could go outside and play together without being afraid. Neighborhoods meant something back then. Time moved slower when I was growing up on Hibbler Street. You could actually stand outside and talk in the street without worrying about practice or the million other things that seem to steal our time these days.

Those were also the days when door to door sales were very successful. People on our street loved the World's Finest Chocolate. They also liked calendars, pizza, and candles. The chocolate was the favorite though. For only one dollar you could get the World's Finest Chocolate with a one dollar coupon on the back for McDonald's. So basically the candy was free. The sales pitch worked every time. I never considered why people on Hibbler Street liked chocolate, calendars, candles, and pizza so much, but I am sure glad they did.

Over the years Hibbler Street has changed. Families have moved away for one reason or another. The natural progression of life and death has taken others. This past Sunday, the bell tolled once more. Mr. Norman died. Norman Armstrong was no ordinary neighbor. He was a friend, even when I was a kid. He never seemed to mind my hanging around. As a matter of fact we had several long - and I mean long - conversations standing around the kitchen with Mrs. Lucille when I was in high school. We solved every problem in the West Point School District and could have solved even more. The only bad problem was that no one ever paid attention to our solutions. Their loss, I suppose.

Creativity was one of his strongest traits. Mr. Norman was involved in community events, plays, Arts Council, and more. Every Christmas for the past few years every member of my family got a handmade Christmas card from him. He loved art, and he loved us. Makes for a great combination.

Mr. Norman also catered our wedding rehearsal dinner. Along with my parents, Mr. Norman and others worked to make that evening a very special one indeed. He liked doing things that made people feel special. I never remember him wanting much attention. He just found joy in creating meaningful experiences for people he loved.

Now I would be remiss if I didn't mention again that Mr. Norman had a better half. Her name was Mrs. Lucille. At least that was her name until I reached the 11th grade in high school. That was the year she developed a new identity. Mrs. Lucille transformed into Mrs. Armstrong, my 11th grade English teacher. American literature came alive in her class, so much so that I took enough literature courses in college to have a minor. If she reads this post she might wish that I would keep silent on this next piece of trivia. Mrs. Armstrong also taught me to write. I never have been one who was at a loss for words. Praise God that Mrs. Armstrong taught me the skills of organization and research. Those skills are still part of my toolbox today. As a matter of fact at this very moment I am involved in a pursuit for a Doctor of Ministry degree. To say that I have a few papers to write would be an understatement. I got my start from a teacher who was more than a teacher, right there on Hibbler Street. People say that when you know the rules of grammar, you can break the rules of grammar. Well I definitely learned the rules so let's just say that reason is my reason, too.

The year is 2012. Much has happened since 1968 when my family first moved to Hibbler Street. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. Over 44 years living in the same house across the street from the same neighbor is not very common anymore. Some would say that type of life must be mundane. Where's the excitement in seeing the same people day after day pulling out of their driveway heading out for coffee, the beauty shop, the library, or the play? I don't have many answers for life, but I do have the answer for that one. The excitement is not in the activity. The excitement is in knowing that you live near someone who knows you and loves you anyway. Knowing that you have a lifetime friend means something. Lifetime friends are rare. Is there any way to get those days back?

Why does life get so busy? Another friend who grew up right next door on Hibbler Street recently had a tragic loss. We played together, went to school together, played opposite each other in the school play Oklahoma, and even went to a prom together. We were childhood friends. We've kept in touch some, mainly about graphic design, t-shirts, and logos. Now she has experienced a tremendous pain in her life, and we have talked a couple of times. Why does it take tragedy to make us do what lifetime friends should do all along?

You know the neighborhood connection must be a strong one when the sadness reaches to the middle of Florida. It is not about me at all, but I do feel the loss. I've cried for Mrs. Lucille and for me too, I suppose. I should be stronger when I call people to express my sympathy. That sounds so much like a preacher. What I mean to say is that I shouldn't cry when I call to encourage my friends after they have lost their husbands. I should be strong, but I'm not. I'm sad. Life keeps getting shorter and smaller and closer. We've only got a little time left.

The Lord tells me that in the little time I have left I should seize every moment to become so much like him that the world changes. I don't live on a Hibbler Street, but if I did I would want the neighborhood kids to think the world was different because I had been in it. Jesus wants our world to be different. I have a new urgency not to waste today because today quickly becomes tomorrow, and tomorrow soon fades into yesterday, creating a cycle that can never be captured, not even for a moment. Time only stands still when we are grieving and wishing it would move on or when that dream has become a nightmare that seems never to end. What if we could live our lives in Christ so that time became our capsule to change the world. Mr. Norman changed his little piece of the world. I pray that God will use me to change my little piece of the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Should Have Been A Cowboy

I think I was born in the wrong era.  Too many parts of this era seem out of place to me. Thoughts of how things used to be before I even knew what used to be give me cause to stop and ponder.

What would it have been like to be a circuit riding preacher? Riding a beautiful horse from town to town ready to bring the powerful message of the Lord to a church eager to hear the word must have been a thrilling experience. Today I got a little taste of how things used to be. First I had a visit with an inspiring man who has been dramatically transformed by the gospel of Christ. For two and a half hours we shared together and celebrated what God was doing in his life and what God has in store for Hardee County. A little after 5:00 p.m. I picked up my family, and we went riding - horseback riding.

I don't know when the dream started, but I know when it became real. Today around 6:00 p.m. I've always wanted to ride a horse - really ride a horse. I'm not talking about the "go stay at Fort Wilderness and ride around the trail that the horses have been on a million times" kind of riding a horse. I'm talking about really riding a horse. Today was the day. A real live cowgirl showed a preacher boy the basics, and the rest is history. To add to the fun I got to ride with my princess on a horse by my side. Seeing Caroline on that horse made me smile. David rode some. Maybe he will become more accustomed to it as years go by. I'm wondering if it would seem odd to ride a horse to work everyday in 2012. I think I would like that better than a truck any day. Like I said, I think I was born in the wrong era.

It's not just horses. I also think peanuts in your coke is the cool way to drink. Girls with high collars and long dresses are still the most attractive. Guys need to pull up their pants. Back seats are made for letting the kids sleep while traveling on a long vacation. Mayberry would be a great place to live. J.R. probably deserved to get shot. Matt Dillon should have married Miss Kitty. The Bible is still the Best Book of all time. Marriage matters. Children should respect their parents, and parents should be the boss of the home. Afghans and coffee make great partners to a good book and a recliner. Circuit riding preachers are real men.

I was called to be a preacher. Maybe just in the wrong era. I suppose the Lord knows best, though, so I will just keep on moving ahead - one gallup at a time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nineteen Years

August 7, 1993 was the beginning of the rest of my life.  Other than my decision to follow Christ, this day marked the solidifying of the biggest choice I had ever made or would ever make.  Nineteen years later I am amazed that God has brought us this far.  Today is our wedding anniversary.

The last nineteen years have provided us many opportunities to press in hard to the heart of God.  Karen and I have grown together and learned together. I could never have written the story of our lives in such a Masterful way.  I call the story Masterful because our marriage has been one that has been protected by the Master.  Moves from ministry to business and back to ministry have allowed us to find each other's strengths and weaknesses over and over again.

Karen is the fun part of our marriage.  When she walks into a room the entire atmosphere changes.  She has been working with the children at our church on Wednesday nights, but this summer she has joined the adults in our Mid-Week Prayer Meeting and Bible Study.  The first night she came in was just one example of what happens when she enters the room.  The room was subdued, and a few people were talking quietly.  I was waiting for a few more to arrive, and that's when it happened.  Karen came in and saw one of our senior adults who lives in an Assisted Living Facility coming in for Prayer Meeting.  When Karen saw her she immediately called her name and sprinted (that's my girl) to see her.  I cannot explain the joy and excitement that filled the room.  Somehow I think that's how the midweek service is supposed to be.  A breath of fresh air when the Spirit of God fills the room.

Three of the biggest joys in our marriage are gifts we have received over the last nineteen years.  On February 11, 1998, the Lord gave us a son.  Daniel has been a blessing in our lives and continues to teach us about what it means to pursue life with reckless abandon.  Then, on May 29, 2002, God gave us a daughter.  Caroline has the independent spirit that many of us long to have.  She loves to dance - a reminder to us that life is a dance meant to be enjoyed and savored with every passing day.  Our third gift arrived on September 19, 2007.  His name is David.  With curly hair and a personality that never stops he keeps us busy trying to stifle laughs and to be firm all at the same time.  Now that's a tough assignment.

These three gifts are an important part of our marriage, but they are not the most important part of our marriage.  We have been talking a lot lately about the necessity for Jesus to be the most important part of our marriage.  We have always known that Jesus is the most important part of any relationship, yet with the busy days and challenges of parenthood we have also been guilty of spending so much time raising children that we might have occasionally forgotten to fertilize the relationship that we have with each other in Christ.  Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:22-33 that marriage is a symbol of God's relationship with the church.  He talks a lot about God's relationship with His bride.  Scripture teaches us that raising children is what we do together.  Our marriage is who we are together.

Over the next year, as we anticipate 20 years of marriage, I pray for an even stronger bond in Christ.  I pray that Karen will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.  I pray for our children. I especially pray that the three of them will see a marriage that honors the Lord so that one day they can find a mate who is committed to the journey, no matter where the journey may lead.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Same Spirit

Today was a great day in Medellin.  We spend the day in Mentor training with the network of pastors and some from the churches the pastor who are invested in the mentoring process.  My group was a group of three Colombian pastors, a member of the FBC, Euless, team, and an amazing Pastor to pastors in this Colombian network who also is an exceptional translator.  The gentleman leading our group is a seminary student and staff member from Euless, Texas.  His task is to help us learn how to mentor others in the circle of influence God places us in.  In other words, how can we, as Pastors, mentor those in our church and train them to become mentors of others.

At our church in Wauchula we constantly talk about the importance of father passing on their faith to their children.  In essence, this passing on of the faith is mentoring.  Daniel and I try to go to breakfast every week, and while we are enjoying some of the finer delicacies of the dollar menu we talk about what God is doing in our lives and how we can grow closer to him.  I honestly cannot wait to get back and go through this amazing material with him.  Being able to take my son through a disciplined approach to discipleship will be a life changing experience - for both of us.

I am also excited bringing back the mentoring process to some folks in our community who have been experiencing the power of God in their lives.  I am thinking of several men and women in our church who have been searching for a way to invest in the lives of others and multiply their faith.  What I am learning this week is a great catalyst for that multiplication.  What better way to get people excited about sharing their faith than to equip them with all of the tools they need to help someone grow into a fully devoted follower of Christ.

One of the most humbling experiences is realizing that the Pastors here have the same joys, struggles, hurts, and passions that I do.  The fact that we are literally oceans apart makes no difference.  We serve a Mighty Big God who transcends all space.  We all worship the same God and are motivated by the same Spirit.

I praise God for my brothers and sisters in Christ in the United States.  I praise God for a family that loves the Lord, and I look forward to the day when our youngest chooses, by faith, to follow Christ as well.  I also praise God, though, for the brothers and sisters in Christ in Euless, Texas, and in  South America.  Through them this week the Lord has helped me see that people everywhere need Jesus, and the key to being who God wants us to be is simply to join God in the work He is already doing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Buzzards in the Belfry

Friday night on the streets of Medellin is much different from Friday nights on the streets of Wauchula. While it is true that Friday Night Live can get pretty busy, and Giovanni's can get pretty full, there is no comparison to what we experienced riding in a taxi on our way to the first session of our Mentoring Training.  Let's just say that it's hard to admire the beautiful city of eternal spring when you've got motorcycles coming at you from all - and yes I mean all four - sides, and your taxi driver is maneuvering his way through them as if he is riding a Gator through an orange grove.

As we pulled up to the church (after getting turned around - that's Spanish for lost) we saw a most interesting sight.  Sitting on top of the church were some buzzards.  Now I've been on enough back roads to know that buzzards usually know when something is dead long before we humans do.  I know you've seen them circling waiting to take the dive.  Something is dead somewhere.

We exited the taxi and walked across four lanes of busy Medellin traffic, making me feel like I was back in the old Atari Frogger game I used to have as a teenager.  Once we were inside the church, however, the busy streets were a quick memory.  Pastors and their wives from the network of churches had gathered to be taught the practice of Mentoring by our new Texas friends.  What a great time of fellowship and partnership in the Lord.  These pastors and wives had brought lay leaders as well, and were looking forward to the beginning of a spirit-filled weekend.  The depth of the team from Texas and the humility with which they approached the training was inspiring. I can hardly wait until tomorrow morning.  While I miss my family more than I can express I am also gaining valuable insight into how to mentor my own children, as well as others God allows me to lead.  I'm also learning a lot from the Texans (although I hate to admit it) about healthy, spirit-filled, mission minded followers of Christ.  Perhaps we'll talk more about that later.

As I finished the night with conversation, I couldn't help but remember the buzzards on the church roof.  Perhaps some animal had suffered an untimely death, and they were standing on ready.  There was certainly nothing dead about what was going on inside that building tonight.  I do wonder, though, how often we as Christ followers proceed with life as if everything is great when the "buzzards" know something is dead.  In my own life I have noticed recently that sometimes it is not until later that I realize a part of me that used to be very alive is now gone.  It's that way in relationships, in communities, and I am afraid it's that way in churches as well.  Churches across the world are great at keeping dead things propped up as if they are still alive.  I wonder if we need a few buzzards to let us know the status of our spiritual lives.  The truth is that others notice long before we do.  We are so good at pretending.

Tonight as I heard one mentor share his story I was impressed with how open he was.  He was done with pretending.  His only goal was to share his story so that others could learn how to share theirs.  Believe it or not, this mentor had actually lived in Oxford, Mississippi, and loved it.  I had to wonder if there weren't some buzzards flying around - not really.  He was the real deal.

It's time to stop pretending and time to start praying for the Lord to restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:10).  Before we can honestly pray that prayer, though, we have to admit that we've lost the joy in the first place.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Life may be crazier that a taxi cab on a Friday night in Medellin, Colombia, but our God is still on His throne, and His sanctuary is still a place of refuge.

Get rid of the buzzards by experiencing new life today!!

More Than A Song

At the risk of the ridicule I might get I still have to ask.  Does anybody remember that Ray Boltz song, "Thank You?"  I know, I know he sang so many, and the videos are kind of sappy now.  That was a long time ago, etc., etc., etc.

I had an experience today that reminded me of the song - actually that the song is more than a song.  For the next several days I have the privilege of being in Medellin, Colombia, serving alongside two other members of our church, some members of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, and several representatives from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  What an amazing organization the International Mission Board is!!  God continues to do great work through the faithful service of missionaries who have committed their lives to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While we were walking today I was in a group with the team leader from FBC, Euless, and one of the missionaries from another city in Colombia.  This missionary told this story.  Some people he had introduced to Jesus were growing in their faith.  They heard that the missionary would be seeing the Pastor who had been influential in his life (previous trip).  These new Christ followers told him to tell his Pastor thank you for the investment.  Then, he turned to this team leader from FBC, Euless, and looked over at me.  It seems that this team leader had been the missionary's tenth grade Sunday School teacher.  So he looked at his former teacher and said, "So really I want to tell you thank you from the people I am working with because without you I wouldn't be here, and they might not know Jesus."

Now, friends, let me just tell you, that got my attention.  Here was a man who was leading a team of short term missionaries in an experience with a young man he had taught in the 10th grade.  Have you ever felt like your efforts at ministry weren't worth it?  Think again.  You never know what God might be up to.

There are people in my life who I am thankful to God for for the impact they have had on me.  This story makes me realize the importance of making sure my children know that there are a long line of investors who have played a part in where we are today.  Of course, there have been some investors who had impure motives.  Others may wonder if they made a good investment after all.  For those who made solid investment in my life, however, I am thankful.  The next two steps are to let others know who they are and then to make investment in the lives of others so the door will be open for continued work throughout the days to come.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

All Things According To His Purpose

Perhaps you have never wondered, but just in case you have, my experience this week at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans is that God truly does cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). At different times different parts of scripture stand out. What speaks loudly to me from this verse today is that God does call people according to His purpose. His purpose really is all that matters. Pastors always fall prey to the purposes of people, most of them people who are seeking the Lord. Occasionally, however, individuals rise up who have some other purpose. Satan wants us to spend our time trying to decipher those purposes because doing so would distract us from the purpose of the call. We can go literally crazy trying to work through the purposes of those who mask themselves under knightly disguise claiming to fight for "the common good" - often using the "several people" motif to decorate their speeches. How did the powerful preachers who spoke at the SBC Pastor's Conference know what My bride and I needed to hear to provide clarity in the midst of confusion (of which God is not the author)? How did they know? Because the Holy Spirit in them and the Holy Spirit in us is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Comforter who came after the ascension of our Lord is still active today - even in the life of a small town boy in New Orleans, Louisiana. This small town boy, back in the city of his call, is overwhelmed by the thought of God in my direction and in the direction of my family. I am thankful for Southern Baptist pastors who have the courage to speak candidly, personally, passionately, and boldly on the importance of our staying true to our calling, because only then do we remain an active part of the eternal plan of God.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Full Circle

Our journey through Panama City, Florida, started almost 19 years ago.  After seminary Karen and I moved to Panama City.  A pastor who had no clue about me gave me a chance at ministry, and since then our lives have never been the same.  I could list many stops along the journey that have enriched our lives.  The one that has caught my attention in the last few days, however, is the relationship that we formed with one particular family.  Two sisters with families who made a decision prior to December of 1993 that they wanted more than the status quo for their kids.  Exposure to the word of God was the call of the day, and the Lord graciously allowed me to be a part of it all.

While we were in Panama City we met a young girl.  Seventh or eighth grade, I'm not sure, but either way over the years God did an amazing work in her life.  If you ever wondered if you can look at someone and really see the reflection of Christ you haven't met Katy.  Everything about her reminds me of Jesus.  It's a family trait, I believe.

The occasion for my thoughts about Katy are closely related to mine and Karen's trip to New Orleans this week.  We are attending the Southern Baptist Convention in the place where we first fell in love.  We tried to decide who we could leave our children with so they could all be together for the week.  Not many people are close enough that we would dare to ask them to keep a fourteen year old, a ten year old, and a four year old.  As I prayed about this important decision, Katy came to mind.  She and her husband have two precious daughters of their own, and I hoped that she would be willing to let our three kids stay with them for the week.  Actually it is a family affair, seeing that Aunt Sherri lives right next door.  Kathy, Christy, Ben squared, and Sammy will also be there to help.  Still, it's a big deal that she was willing to help us out.  

While Karen and I were driving and talking we found ourselves in a place remembering who Katy was and who she had become.  Suddenly we were struck with the fact that this young lady who we had in our very first youth ministry now had children of her own and was raising them in such a way that we felt comfortable leaving our three kids in her care for the week.  What a humbling experience for us.  Not that we had anything to do with the kind of parent she is.  It's just that rarely do you have the privilege of seeing fruit in ministry.  Katy had great parents and an encouraging family that did most of the work in the name of Jesus.  The Lord did allow us a little part of the journey, however.  Maybe one day our boys will find a Godly woman like Katy.  Maybe one day our little girl will grow up to reflect Jesus like Katy does.  In the mean time we are thankful for the exposure that she will have in their lives this week.  As David has taken to saying, "Praise God!"