Wrote a letter of recommendation the other day. That in itself is nothing unusual – I do that often and have done it for years. I often joke with whoever I’m writing it for that after I’m done I need a bath, or a priest or something.
“I’ve already lost the boots… I’m just trying to save the hat!”
But we both know I’m joking, and that I would never be deliberately dishonest – that would eventually catch up with them and me.
But between that and the opportunity I have to preach this weekend (here, if you are in the Mobile, Alabama area), I’ve been thinking about relationships.
(Preaching moment: Your life is the sum total of your relationships… with God, with others, and with yourself. As your relationships go, so goes your life. Okay, I’m done.)
This morning I was thinking about that reference letter, and about another one I wrote a couple of months ago. That one didn’t have to do with a job application, and it wasn’t even requested. I saw a friend and colleague’s LinkedIn profile, and spontaneously wrote a letter of recommendation for his professional practice. It was honest, heartfelt, and a total surprise, really to him and me both.
It was also a wonderful relationship builder. [click to continue…]
“What is the secret of your life?” asked Mrs. Browning of Charles Kingsley; “Tell me, that I may make mine beautiful too?”
He replied, “I had a friend.” -William C. Gannet
It was 18 years ago this month that I came to this place… this place of tumbleweeds and dust and amazing sunsets and more amazing people.
It was nothing short of surrender. I had given up on me – the “me” of my own making or imagination, that is.
My friends in Atlanta asked, “Where are you moving?”
“To hell,” I replied. “If the world was flat, Lubbock would be on the edge of it.”
But oh what I discovered when I showed up as a shell of the man I once was. Most importantly, I discovered that God was here all the time, waiting so patiently for me to get here. [click to continue…]
In his famous poem Desiderata, Max Ehrmann cautioned, “…neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.”
I think he was right.
But I also think I know what makes people cynical about love.
Having stood on the solo side more than 200 times as a man and woman use the most famous words in promise-making – “’til death do us part” – then assemble plenty of substitutes for “death” as the reason love goes awry, it’s hard sometimes not to get a little jaded.
But on this day that we set aside to celebrate love, apparently in all its manifestations, I am thankful to be part of a Kingdom that still speaks of love with the language of forever. And God didn’t blink, cough or shuffle side to side when He talked about love.
Love is as powerful as death; passion is as strong as death itself. It bursts into flame and burns like a raging fire. Water cannot put it out; no flood can drown it. But if anyone tried to buy love with his wealth, contempt is all he would get (Song of Solomon 8:6-7 TEV).
See that? God gets passion. But He also understands that Forever Love is more than pleasure, and it’s oblivious to wealth or other distractions. So what’s so different about this Love that Lasts Forever? [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…]
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…]
Here’s a thought question for you. Did Jesus have a best friend? If so, who was it?
Aunt Ruth, who was neither my aunt nor was she named “Ruth,” used to say it was Judas. “Only a friend can betray a friend,” she would say. I told her she was nuts.
You could obviously make the case for Peter, James and John collectively. He took them places the other disciples didn’t go, and let them see parts of Him the others didn’t necessarily see. He also gave each of them nicknames – something guys like to do with their friends.
Individually, Peter and John seemed to have this ongoing competition for who was going to be the closest to Christ. John even referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” But Jesus said more to Peter directly than any other disciple. Of course, Peter was also saying more to Him apparently.
I have another suggestion for who his dearest friend was…
…and it was a girl. [click to continue…]
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning
(Psalm 30:5, NLT)
Until we experience the promise of a home where there is no more night, we all will encounter seasons that feel as though dawn is forever an hour away. It’s not a matter of if , but when the shadows grow long and dark. And no one, regardless of their faith or pedigree, is immune from the seasons when darkness comes.
When darkness comes, “tired” takes on a whole new meaning. Every fiber of your being aches for rest, but rest remains taunting and elusive. Even the simplest of routine tasks feels like labor to exhaustion when darkness comes. [click to continue…]
Something changed that night. And you are the beneficiary. But so many things changed in and around that night that this sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and scuffle.
For three-plus years, Jesus-the-Master had been leading a band of twelve full-time followers. “Disciples,” He called them. And they did what disciples do. Listen. Learn. Serve. Make mistakes. Listen. Lean some more. Serve some more. There were teachable moments and forgettable moments. Fighting times and healing times.
But just before His death, Jesus was giving these loyal men (Judas had already left) a final round of teaching. One guy calls this, “Jesus’ Cram for the Final Exam.” I love it.
Tucked in between these massive concepts about vines and branches and the coming Holy Spirit, Jesus rewrote the contract between Him and those who follow. Read this carefully: [click to continue…]
Robin and Gift
It was a fairly eclectic group gathered around the dining room table Saturday night. A combination of old friends and acquaintances, family, and a special friend who had literally traveled around the world to be here.
All eyes were on our Thai friend Gift, who had come from Bangkok with her son Dift to stay with us for four weeks. She was sharing with those who came to her “welcoming party” about the dream she had to establish an export business.
The goal: to support her husband Dui’s ministry among the three distinct congregations, Bible study groups and the additional pastor training ministry he has established. Also to give Thai women an opportunity to earn a living in keeping with their considerable work ethic and skill.
Gift designs exquisite jewelry and has a growing team of Thai women who are able to make her designs by hand using certified-authentic gemstones from China and other places.
After sharing her brief story and dream, Gift’s focus changed to address my father-in-law, who was seated at the table with us. He had left Thailand with his family when Dui was just two years old and Gift was one. Though he hasn’t lived there since 1974, because of his frequent returns and ongoing relationships, he remains a hero there to this day. And that was the word – hero – that Gift used to describe how she and her husband saw Dr. Willis.
“We pray that we can have the same…” Gift was saying, and she paused, looking to no avail for the right English word. Finally, all she could do is say it in Thai.
“How do you say, gam-lang jai?” [click to continue…]
It all started with a dream last week,
About a friend I hadn’t seen in more than a decade,
And hadn’t talked to in six years.
Even though it had been so long
And so much life had passed us by,
I realized how important he still is to me.
My love for him and his family is as strong as ever.
And that dream made me take a look at the tapestry of my relationships
And realize somebody was missing.
[click to continue…]