We were standing in a line. A food line, snaking its way into the church fellowship hall.
It was an interesting mix of people. Some of our church members, who were hosts. Most of our youth group, over which I presided. And a touring youth choir from Kentucky. It was a fun atmosphere, and everybody was having a good time as they got to know each other and anticipated the concert later that evening.
Standing at the rear of the line there in Lumberton, Mississippi, were the pastor of the Kentucky church and the pastor of the Mississippi church – my friend Rick. The Kentucky pastor made an interesting observation, especially for somebody who hadn’t been there very long.
“There’s something different about this church,” he said to Rick.
Little did he really know. But he would soon find out.
And it all started at camp. [click to continue…]
I 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.
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?” [click to continue…]
by Acharaporn Limpanapirak (Gift)
(I mentioned the other day that our friend Gift is visiting from Thailand. Gift is a businesswoman and the wife of a pastor in Bangkok. I asked her if she would like to write a guest post for LifeVesting readers, maybe about her experience with Jesus Christ and what Thai Christian culture is about. She graciously agreed – I think you’ll find below that the challenges Christians encounter there are similar to some we encounter here.)
I have been a Christian in name for more than half of my life, but for some time I never realized that I had never known my LORD, Christ Jesus.
It happened 13 years ago at my previous church in Bangkok where my husband, Pi Dui, served as a deputy pastor. A certain man came to talk with Pi Dui and asked an interesting question
“Arjan (Pastor) Dui, I would like to know Jesus. Could you please tell me how to do so?”
When I heard this, it was as if someone hit me on the head. This question had confused me for a while. This guy came from a rural part in Isaan, in the Northeast of Thailand. Few people there have any opportunities to go to school, and they are incapable of reading or writing (illiterate). But, WOW, he wanted to know Jesus, with a very simple faith like a child, as Jesus told in the Bible. Here I had been a “Christian” more than 20 years, and I had not ever a desire like this. I felt so ashamed. [click to continue…]
Can’t believe it’s been a whole year, but I got to see Walter again yesterday. We took a little ride and shared a little fellowship. It was good to catch up.
Two years ago Walter was going through a severe depression. He had been through a series of deep losses, including his job and health benefits. That’s tough enough for anybody, but at Walter’s age new careers don’t just grow on trees. I really don’t know how old Walter is, but I’m 54 and he’s a good five-to-ten past that. I have to say, though, he makes it look good.
There is none of that suicidal darkness remaining that so gripped this man just a couple of years ago. And make no mistake about it – this was no bootstrap operation. Walter is joyfully explicit about Who gets the credit for raising him out of the pit. His life radiates with gratitude and joy, even when he’s all business.
Walter is especially excited because he and his wife are meeting their children and grandchildren in a few weeks. [click to continue…]
Second period was blue. Dark blue. That was the color of our gym shorts in seventh grade. Well, at least for those who sailed down the steps at Azalea Road Junior High to greet the red shorts brigade who was returning from Coach Crenshaw and Coach Perkins’ gym class.
Always anxious for coming attractions, we’d ask the boys from first period, “What are we doing?” Sometimes it was something awesome like battle ball or football. Sometimes it was something exotic like gymnastics. But one thing was sure to send a chill up my adolescent spine:
The Obstacle Course.
I should probably mention here that my athletic ability was legendary. In my own mind. But running headlong into a class of 60 or so peers left little doubt that my gateway to glory wasn’t through athletics.
And if there was any doubt – if there was any shred of athletic dignity left in me – the Obstacle Course loomed as a reminder of the inglories that awaited. [click to continue…]
These days I make a trip to the bank just about every day. I’m on a first name basis with most of the tellers, which feels good. And most days it’s a pretty straightforward deal – one or two deposits, mostly business. Even a left-handed guy like me can get that right. About the worst mistake I ever made was driving around in a cluttered truck and realizing that beneath all that clutter was a deposit I forgot to make. For about a week.
Then came Friday. Four deposits. Three different accounts. And one of those was a check I’d written to myself to deposit in our personal account.
I pulled up to the window and realized I hadn’t endorsed the check I’d written to myself, so while the probie teller waited for me patiently, I paused to do that.
I’d venture to guess there was about a six-inch gap between the deposit drawer and my truck window. And somewhere in that six inches, as I reached for the drawer with a pile of bank bid-ness, that freshly-endorsed check was sucked away. Weird even for the dusty plains, the drive-through lanes had formed a wind tunnel. And the wind tunnel took my check.
My assumption: Oh. This is frustrating. I’ll have to get out of the truck and pick it up off the ground.
My reality: Y’all, it was gone. Vaporized. On its way to Amarillo, I suppose. I always fuss because Amarillo gets all the rain (out here we refer to it as “moisture”). Now they got my check. [click to continue…]
As you probably could tell from the last post, we got to spend a week with three of our grandsons last week here at our house. You may or may not know that I also spend 95% of my working time at home.
Do you see a potential conflict there?
The week was predictably (and wonderfully) less-than-productive.
Routinely as I would try to “escape” to the bedroom or office to get some work done, one of them would find me. The sweetheart crawler, the scary-smart walker, and the funny, nonstop talker. One wanted me to hold him, one wanted me to see and notice him, and one wanted me to engage in conversation – endless, looped conversation. [click to continue…]
Did a face plant a couple of weeks ago. On concrete. It was ugly, and so was I for a few days.
The irony of the situation was that I was bolting from one meeting to another, with a cross-town drive in-between. And the place I was in a hurry to?
A radio interview about the mental health of people in the ministry.
I wasn’t exactly expecting to have my own tested in the process. But that’s the price you pay when you’re trying to move at the speed of light on a sidewalk designed for the speed of pedestrians.
For just a minute I thought I was seeing the light of eternity. Turns out I was just seeing stars.
Aside from the wounds to my forehead, knees, hands and pride, I did learn a few things, such as what an “orbital nerve” is. Oh, and that there is more than one kind of black eye.
But the most important thing I was reminded of is that my ability to maintain my rhythm and step in this world of the falling is no comparison to God’s ability to hold me, heal me, and shepherd me home. Regardless of how I may stumble in a temporal world, in the one that matters most, He won’t let me fall. [click to continue…]
The other night I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in years – namely because he had moved away. Doyle had always been such an encouragement and support to me in whatever endeavor I was involved in at the time. But as a friend, Doyle offered something else – something that every leader needs. He offered me the gift of perspective.
The first time we got to know each other was over lunch. We had served on a couple of planning committees together and I had admired his wisdom and kindness. Lunch on that day was no different. I heard his story, and shared mine with him. I talked about the fact that I was living in a parentheses period – an in-between time in my work. (I was serving as a men’s pastor at the time, but anxious to get back to being a senior pastor.) Doyle’s primary word (and that of everybody whenever I’ve been anxious to make a quick move) was, “Stay where you are.” Actually he said, “I can’t think of anything more important than working with men.”
After sharing more joys and frustrations, he (lovingly!) asked me a slap-in-the-face question:
[click to continue…]
A few months ago I was having a conversation with someone who was going through a recovery process. He sounded really healthy on the phone – sober in the best sense of the word. Then he said something really curious about his life.
“I’m so ready to get things back to normal.”
“Normal,” I told him, “was what got you in trouble in the first place. You’re ‘normal’ is being redefined, and that takes time. And as much as you want that, you are going to need to give it time to form.”
I was talking to a couple a few weeks after their first baby was born. I asked how things were going and got a predictable answer. “We love being parents, but we’re exhausted from lack of sleep,” Mom said.
Then Dad chimed in… “Yeah, we’re so ready to get back to normal.”
I guess I was a little rude, but I just laughed. In their face.
“You want what? Good luck with that.” [click to continue…]