RickI didn’t know it would be the last time.

But then again, we both had lived long enough to know there are no guarantees when it comes to this sort of thing.

It was in Orlando, coming up on three years ago.  Rick said he’d drive me back to the airport. We had been together during the Southern Baptist Convention. (It would be less-than-honest if I said we had been there FOR the Southern Baptist Convention).  But we used the meeting there as an opportunity for a reunion of the Wolfepack. Rick was always the undisputed leader of that gang.

During a difficult time in my life, they had made sure to include me in the meeting. And it was as though we had never missed a beat. That’s the nature of the truest of friends.

Rick dropped me off at the airport to fly home. Just after walking into the terminal, I realized to my horror that I had left my phone in his car.  I found a way to call it, and of course, he turned around and brought it back to me.

Doctored.

He took that picture of himself on it (above), and made it the wallpaper.

That was Rick.

And I kept it as my wallpaper for about a month after my wife started asking, “How long are you going to keep that?”

Know What’d Be Funny?

I don’t know if Rick’s brain ever totally turned off.  It was constantly moving.  Constantly. He’d make that ADHD kid of yours seem like a turtle.  And one of the things he could always seem to find was the funny side of everything.

A gifted practical joker with an infectious laugh, Rick would then tell and re-tell the funniest of times when he’d pull some prank on fellow church staff members, bosses, or even occasionally his wife, Marie. He always stayed inside the lines – he made it funny without making it hurtful. That way you would laugh with him.

But the more daring stuff he’d save for somebody else to do. And it would always start with the same innocent question:  “Know what’d be funny?”

Without fail, he could get one of his minions, including me sometimes, to carry out the risky stuff. And he’d come out smelling like a rose.

Well… except that time he used the church video camera to film a solar eclipse. That was just sort of an accident.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Rick taught me to laugh at myself. He’d start by laughing at me first. He always seemed to be laughing at me… even when I was going through some of the biggest moments of drama in my life. Once we were driving through central Mississippi and passed the town of Chunky.  “Look, Andy, they named a town after you.”  I never pass that sign on I-20 without thinking of that.

Tell You What You Need to Do

Ask anybody who knew Rick as a friend or serious acquaintance, and they’ll all tell you the same thing. At some point in just about every conversation, the phrase would come up: “Tell you what you need to do.”

I have been blessed to know lots of creative people in my life. But I never knew anybody who was more of an idea generator than Rick. And the advice was always free.

Our last long conversation, the idea was about buying a college.  No joke.  I had heard where we could pick one up for the tidy sum of $8 million.  “Let’s do it,” he said.  “Tell you what you need to do…”

That same conversation, he suggested I check to see if any nursing homes in Texas were in trouble and needed a turnaround specialist.  “Call me and let me know. I’ll buy it and you can help me turn it around.”

Of course, as fast as his brain worked, almost as soon as he had said it, he had forgotten it and moved on to the next idea. I’ll believe to my dying day that it would take a thousand lives to execute all his ideas, but most of them would probably work.

Quotable Perspective

Always the master of the one-liner, sometimes it was a joke. Sometimes it was wisdom.  Like the time he had been through a forced termination from a church. He made a vow to himself, “Never again will I depend on one source of income.”  I remembered that statement years later when I went through something similar.

Out of his own experience, Rick once told me, “There is nothing more dangerous than unrighteous men with a righteous cause.”  Here are a few other pearls of wisdom. Sometimes he could get on a roll:

“There’s no such thing as a polite fist fight.”

(my favorite) “Some people are like Barney when Andy leaves town.”

“If you ever start running, it’ll eventually find you.”

“Get that far-off look out of your eye.  Lock and load!”

“The most expensive thing you can do is nothing.”

I’ll Go First

Rick Cagle’s life and ministry and work were the fruit of a movement of God that began to take place in the late 1970s at our home church in Mobile. Out of those days of awakening, growth, and revival, many lives were transformed by the power of the gospel. And many men and women were called out of that church into full-time ministry.

Ricky was first.

I still remember the day when he stood and shared with our congregation, “I’ve been resisting something the Lord has been calling me to, and today I am here to say that God has called me into full-time ministry.”

He was the first to start that ministry by being a Sunday School teacher… my Sunday School teacher.

He was one of the first to start me growing spiritually as a new believer, third only to my pastor and worship leader.

He was the first of us to take a church staff position, where he met his beautiful wife-to-be.

He was the first among us to go to seminary, and among the first to get a doctorate.

He was one of the first to give me an opportunity to serve on a church staff – and he did so not once, but twice.

He was the first to help me make the transition from being a youth pastor to a lead pastor – at a church three miles down the road from where we served together.

He was the first of us to have an elected position in Church World – as the president of the Alabama Baptist Pastor’s Conference.  I got to be his First Vice President. It was his idea.

He was the first of us to be a trustee at an institution – in his case the University of Mobile.

Most importantly to me, he was among the first to walk in when it felt like most of the world was walking out of my life.

So I guess it should be no surprise that when the phone rang this morning, the news from my sister was that when it came time for us to go meet the Lord, Rick went first.

How do you describe it when it feels as though someone has taken part of your spiritual DNA away? How do you carry on a legacy of laughter, creativity, friendship and ideas with your First Inspiration suddenly missing?

By faith.  That’s how.  Knowing that the same Life that flowed through my friend and mentor flows in me.

By hope… knowing that the future is bright as the promises of God – and even though we grieve, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope.

By love… standing on his foundation, following his example, being the friend to others that he was to me, and loving the world that Jesus died for like he did.

Rick went first. But his legacy will last. As God is my helper, I’ll make sure of that. He was one of the first who taught me to be a LifeVestor. And as he always loved to say, “The benefits are out of this world!”

So long, my priceless friend.  Tell you what you need to do… enjoy that eternal laughter. Thanks for going first for me and giving me such a trail to follow. And for what it’s worth, I want you to know… I’m locked and loaded.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando June 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Oh, Andy, this brought tears to my eyes . . . What an amazing, faithful friend you had (have) in Rick, the trail-blazer and the man of vision. Thank you for sharing the story of your shared friendship here with such wit, wisdom, and love. May Rick go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service.
And, may God surround you in His loving arms at this time of loss.
Blessings, my friend!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..And, We Will Be Changed . . .

Andy Wood June 8, 2013 at 12:31 am

Thank you, Martha. He truly was one-of-a-kind.

Judith Wilson June 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Andy, thanks so much for sharing this. Your words are beautiful and you truly knew him.

I knew Ricky from our church, singing in the choir and in The Minority Singers at CHBC. What fun he was and he was a prankster even way back then.

Thanks again.

Andy Wood June 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

Thanks Judith for the encouragement. And you’re absolutely right about that prankster stuff. His legend will live forever. 🙂

michelle June 12, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Thank you for sharing this. What a life well lived.
Also, thank you for the following:
How do you describe it when it feels as though someone has taken part of your spiritual DNA away? How do you carry on a legacy of laughter, creativity, friendship and ideas with your First Inspiration suddenly missing?
By faith. That’s how. Knowing that the same Life that flowed through my friend and mentor flows in me.
By hope… knowing that the future is bright as the promises of God – and even though we grieve, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope.
By love… standing on his foundation, following his example, being the friend to others that he was to me, and loving the world that Jesus died for like he did.
I lost my own precious father 19 months ago. He was also a pastor, a true minister and my best friend. These questions have been on my heart for so long without knowing how to find the words to express them. The answers, too, resound in my spirit. Thank you for putting these words in my heart. They are more healing than you will ever know.

Andy Wood June 13, 2013 at 8:04 am

Hi Michelle, and thank you for the encouragement.; I can only imagine what you have been feeling over the last 19 months because you’d never known a world of any type without your father until then.

With Rick I find myself singing the songs he and I used to sing together, and thinking often of the ways he and I were both alike and very different. I also remember some of the (rare) times he, in his own way, had to get in my face about something. For some reason there is a sense of comfort there.

I hope you’ll come back often. Thanks again for reading.

Steve Kennedy June 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Andy,
Looking forward to meeting you this Sunday @ Crosspoint Church. Our men were praying for you last night and the services Sunday. God is already doing some remarkable things in our fellowship. Thank You for coming to fill the shoes of your beloved friend Rick Cagle… We’re Praying…

Andy Wood June 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Thanks, Steve. What an honor it will be to fellowship with you guys and to worship with you. And I know the Lord will have a word for us, too. As for those shoes… hoo boy… that’s a tall order. 🙂

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