3 things I learned at Louisiana College

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Recently I was asked to share about my time at LC. This invitation allowed me to reflect on how this school, from 1981-1985, changed the way I looked at the world, my faith and my call.  I thought of three things LC taught me inside and outside the classroom.

1. I learned the value of hustle.

During those days I worked as a…

  • Youth minister
  • Hay Bailer
  • Corporate trainer
  • DJ
  • Custodian
  • Resident assistant
  • Tuxedo Delivery guy
  • Camp Counselor
  • Chucky Cheese Mascot
  • Santa Claus

Because of the value of this virtue, I paid my way through college apart from a $325 loan from my mother that I don’t think I ever paid back.

2.  I learned the value of Connection

I learned that Life is best lived in community…

It’s the kind of community that I found through my brothers in TAK and my church. As Solomon wrote:

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

3. I learned the value of Heroes and some of them were on campus:

Welby Bozeman, Frank David Bennet, Connie Douglass, Robert Lynn, Jackie Barton, Mom Holloway, Sarah Francis Anders, Larry Pate, Jerry Reynolds and so many others.

The others were the myriad of voices that shaped my worldview. I am so thankful for a college that introduced me to…

  • Martin Luther King Jr. who taught me the need for justice
  • St. Francis….a love of simplicity
  • Will Campbell ….The power of a story
  • G.K. Chesterton…Zeal in the public square
  • C.S. Lewis…The power of a good fight
  • James Weldon Johnson…Lyrical power of suffering and faith
  • Uta Hagan…Sense Memory
  • E.E. Cummings…Typography as an art form
  • Jim Elliot…Sacrifice is more valuable than long life
  • Fannie Crosby…Disabilities lead to glory
  • Lottie Moon…that any slow boat to China is worth it when Jesus is your captain
  • Dorothy Day… that a Christian must be a radical
  • Teddy Roosevelt… to get in the arena and fight
  • Calvin Miller… showed me there’s a song inside me
  • John Cowper… that I am not alone in sorrow
  • Stephen Schwartz… taught me to dance on a Baptist campus even if you aren’t graceful
  • Corrie Ten Boom…to forgive greatly
  • Detrick Bon Hoffer… that silence is not permitted in the face of Evil
  • Vincent Vangogh…that art is theology
  • And Brennan Manning taught me grace, grace, grace!

But most of all LC fostered a new understanding of the most important One in my life.

He’s my secret Treasure amidst the lies of gold
The Captain of my vessel, the Guardian of my soul
The Champion of my battles, my Warrior in the night
My Guardian, Provider, within the fiercest fight
He’s Architect and Builder of my forever home
A Friend that’s like none other. I never walk alone.
He speaks when I am speechless, my Compass when I’m lost
Forgiver of my cruel debt despite the brutal cost
His love song is redemption, a Troubadour of grace
When I’m lost and lonely, He is my Resting Place
When everyone deserts me, He is a faithful Friend
The Seer of my journey- beginning to the end.
The Hero on His stallion, the Warrior on the hill.
Holy Justice Giver, with a master swordsman’s skill.
My articulate Defender speaks pro-bono in my stead
My Guide through lands of dragons, and by His hand I’m led
He is Enough for yesterday and forever more
My Brother and my Father, my Refuge and my Door.
He is the holy Poet, His sonnet is the sky!
The perfect, true Philosopher. He knows the reasons why.
Far more than any force on earth and higher than the sun
And when we think it’s over, His story’s just begun
He is the Hunter of the lost, the ones who hide in shame
He seeks out every wounded life. He knows each one by name.
He is my great Physician, with a gifted Surgeon’s hand
Composer of a masterpiece and Leader of the band.
He’s everything that’s gallant. His presence makes me free
The Artisan of glory, His love my mystery.

Today is Most Noble

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God holds the future and redeems all of yesterday.

But today is closer to me.

What an amazing concept today, right now, really is. Today- I hope you aren’t planning a siege on your enemy. I hope you aren’t judging the person in the room. I hope you aren’t swallowed up in regret. I hope you aren’t poisoning your time with trivial, toxic thoughts of your own wealth, vanity or scheming revenge. I hope you are in the moment for this moment fashions eternity.

Today is a gift which is moving forward faster than thoughts or plans

Today is where i am right here and right now.

Today is an opportunity to change the little things

Today is closer. tomorrow is a promise and yesterday is an eternity from anything I could attain.

Today is most noble!

The World’s First Smart Phone

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Siri and I are having issues. I believe I lean too much on her and I forget that she does not have the capability of an administrative assistant, as most commercials would assume. She’ll take me to Cracker Barrel when I want to go to Kroger. She’ll call my blood donation center when I ask her to call my wife. She scheduled me for a dental appointment for April 17th 2086 when I asked her to put it on my calendar for April 7th, 2018. It embarrasses Darlene. She says that shouting at it will not make it better, especially at the church welcome center. I’ve tried all the hacks I’ve heard of. Checking my settings, powering down the phone, tilting the phone at a 40-degree angle, reciting the pledge of allegiance to it ten times. But the phone remains as mystified by me as I am of it.

There’s a smart phone in the Bible. Sort of… I found it in Numbers 22 without the aid of the “find-my-phone” app on my computer. Actually it was a donkey-an upgraded smart donkey to be exact. For a few moments, this Shrek-like donkey spoke when his navigation was questioned. The owner of this smart donkey, Balaam was commissioned to place a curse on the people of God, but evidently the smart-donkey knew better and refused to go a step forward. He wouldn’t cooperate- much like my smart-phone in downtown Dallas.

Balaam shouted words similar to the words I have said to my phone a thousand times:

“You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!”

Numbers 22:29 (CSB)

And for the first time in the history of the animal kingdom, a donkey replied,

“But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?” (Verse 30)

Just a note here- This is exactly the kind of sentence structure Siri uses when I realize that she led me down a dead end road on the wrong side of town. Who knew that a donkey’s first sentence would be so grammatically correct? This causes me to conclude that donkeys are smarter than we give them credit. The next time someone calls me a donkey or other words synonymous to donkey during rush hour traffic, I’m going to take it as a compliment.

The entire story is proof me that the real inventor of the smart phone is God. It just came in the form of a donkey 3500 years earlier.


 

A Prayer of Collective Repentance

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Lord, have mercy upon us. We have shouted more than we have listened. We have looked through rage and defiance and have brutalized our brothers and sisters. We have forgotten your Word, which calls upon us to turn the other cheek, to defend those who are on the bottom rung, and to live at peace as long as it depends on us.

We have politicized the Bible and have taken scripture out of context to reframe it so that it fits our personal worldview.

Forgive us, Lord. We’ve forgotten that our kingdom is not of this world, that we are all aliens, and that we have a greater work to fulfill. This work is a labor of love, and if we are to be honest with You, we have not been laboring very well. As a nation we have sold our birthright for a crude pot of rage.

Lord of Compassion, we have forgotten what it means to listen to our brothers’ words. We have discounted their stories and we have lacked the empathy that leads to understanding. May we weep for America as You wept for Jerusalem.

Prince of Peace, we need You now more than ever. We don’t need editorials, rants, or bullhorns. We just need You. Lord, shatter our pride. Make quick word of our prejudice. Keep us from coded words, false pretences, and sarcasm. Hold a mirror to our souls and collectively, let us see our iniquity.

Lord Jesus, Son of God may we look at the cross and remember how You suffered under the greatest, deepest triangulation of injustice, betrayal and vitriolic anger while praying, “Forgive them.” Teach us how to love like that.

May the Church lead out in love and courage. May we bind the wounds of the brokenhearted and diffuse the anger of a dying culture. Transform us Lord. Teach us how to season our words with grace.

We pray this in the Name of the One who wept,

Amen…

 

When Jesus is in the House

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Just another time to worship… Then, suddenly, something happens. Flecks of the ceiling are falling on the teacher’s shoulder. The flecks turn into chunks and out of a gaping hole a paralyzed man is lowered down by four guys in the first elevator in church history. The man is healed and the people went away amazed saying, “We’ve never seen anything like that before!” If only church was like that more often. Drug addicts are welcomed and then healed. Homes are restored. The prodigal son walks in and the down the aisle smothered by a family weeping for joy. These things happen. I’ve witnessed them. It’s then that we can truly say, We’ve never seen anything like this before. Why don’t we see it more often? I think it has a lot to do with two things: Very few people think creatively about how to get their friends to Jesus, like those four guys did in the story. And, sadly, I think we lose sight of the fact that Jesus, the wonder-maker and the game-changer is in the house.

Grace is on a Family Tree

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My friend loves Jesus.

That sounds commonplace, doesn’t it?

It becomes less pedestrian when I tell you that his Mom died a drug addict and his father was a devout atheist. My friend was gloriously saved at the age of 10 at a Vacation Bible School event and never looked back. This. Makes. No. Sense. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree but this apple fell off the tree rolled down the hill, was picked up by a pilot and flew across the ocean! (Figuratively speaking, of course.) And believe me, I don’t have enough white space here to chronicle the entire sordid tale. His story is a monument to the fact that God can save anybody He wants to save, no matter how messed up the family tree.

The New Testament begins with a family tree that had a number of ugly branches. Matthew 1 tells us that in Jesus’ lineage are a number shady characters including a prostitute, daughter of incest, an adulterer, a lying brother, lots of cautionary tales and ultimately an scandalous unwed pregnancy. It’s almost like God wanted to say from the start that this Gospel is all about grace and not about our upbringing. God isn’t as interested in your family history. He’s interested in what happens next. And when it comes to transformation, what happens next is glorious. He flips the script with grace. It’s His specialty. Never count yourself or your family out because of what happened yesterday. It’s an insult to the power of God when you do.


 

When You Say Farewell

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We all learn that people come and people go. You could lose the one you love in the turn of a road, in a sudden bend in the stream and life in its infinite mystery vanishes like the morning dew in the warm break of dawn.

The universality of loss is indellable. I remember dropping my best friend off at the airport in Nashville. I can still see him smile and casually wave goodbye as I pulled away merging back into traffic. I had no idea that would be the last time I’d ever see him. That’s life. And that’s death.

Accidentally or intentionally…

Sweetly or somberly…

Long farewells or brief goodbyes…

People go away…

Something inside says this is not the way it should be.

Others turn their backs. This is the lesson we all learn. Some graves are not found in cemeteries. They are cloistered inside our souls. Through emotional illness, anger, misunderstanding or fate we lose and say farewell to those we love. There are no ceremonies to mark their departures.  But there is One that hears the sound of our weeping and whispers, “Me too.”

The creator of reunions… He is the One in the gap of our disconnection.

His name is Jesus.
The Matchless King who wrapped himself
in a garment of earthly flesh
Jesus
The Christ
And Peter said, “You are Christ the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus
The Anointed One sent from the throne of the Father
Jesus
The Lord,
Whose arrival was announced by a host of angels.
The Lord – the Master of our lives.
Jesus
Our peace… not a state of mind but a Person. For He is Peace.
Oh war-torn world, prepare yourself for the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Jesus
Wonderful Savior- If you have ever come to the realization of who we are and who He is, and what He does, how can you doubt that
Jesus’ Name is Wonderful… Counselor The God who listens and directs.
He is light in darkness,
Voice in silence, and wisdom in a land of lostness.
Jesus
The Mighty God
Jesus
The Everlasting Father
Have you ever mourned the loss of a father or mother? See the joy of a Father who never dies. He lives forever.
Jesus
The Word of God
In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was
Jesus
The fourth man in the furnace
Jesus
The Friend
The One who never leaves.

The Two Questions that He Keeps Asking

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After the resurrection, Jesus returns to the disciples and sets his attention on Peter. You remember Peter. He’s the cussing disciple. The sword wheeling, water stumbling, denier whose tongue sprinted a few miles ahead of his brain on any given Sunday.

Jesus gives the disciples a little fishing advice that produces a record catch and then Peter jumps out of the boat leaving the haul to his buddies. That is SO Peter, isn’t it?

In the middle of this breakfast He asks Peter three times: “Peter, son of Jonah? Do you love me?”

The first time he asks, “Do you love me more than these?”

This is where I could have used a little more narrative information from the writer John. He obviously must have been gesturing to the fish, or the boats, his favorite lures, the disciples, or the water.  We don’t know. But I like that we don’t know. It leaves a mystery and every time I think about it, I think about my own “more than these” things.

I open up my retirement balance sheet. And I hear Him whisper, “Do you love me more than these?”

I open the refrigerator. He whispers again, “Do you love me more than these?”

I think about my family and friends. It gets deadly serious as He whispers, “Do you love me more than these?”

Just the question, “Do you love me?” What a soul searching question it is! Do I really love Him. I mean, hail or high water, do I love Him? Do I love Him when I am broke, mistreated, demoted, deleted, disparaged, rejected… Do I love Him?

The second question comes after Jesus infers that he (Peter) is going to die. (Note to reader: You, too, will die)  Peter looks over at John, perhaps hoping to change the subject. No one wants to talk about their own death. He turns to John and asks, “Hey Jesus, what about John?”

Jesus then says, “What is that to you?” In other words, “Peter, stop looking around. I’m talking about you and you only right now.”  I think the question inside the question is this: “Do you trust me?”

Jesus is asking me that same question. “Do you trust me?”

Those two questions:
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?

Those are the questions he whispers to me and you every day.

When He sees us fretting, anxious, conflicted, and disappointed by our careers, our lives, our future, our kids, our marriage, our finances, EVERYTHING.

He’s asking those two questions.

Stop reading this for a moment and hear Him whisper to you:

Do you love me?
Do you trust me?
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?
Do you love me?
Do you trust me?

I don’t know where you are, but your love and trust fascinates Him. It’s why He created you. He created you so that He could love You and take care of You. I want to see you and me grow up so that we can enter into a relationship of love and trust. He wants both of those from you, more than He wants you to sing beautifully, speak in tongues, heal the sick, or achieve greatness in His Name. Getting your theology right about free-will, Calvinism, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin– none of that is in the same area code of these two important questions.

He wants our love and He wants our trust.

So do you love Him?

Do you trust Him?

A Sacred Connection

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The child arrives on the planet and a new daddy shouts, and the grandparents weep with joy, but the mother is the first to see her child deeply. Children are born and you don’t have to teach a mother or child how to feel love. They bring their love with them.

She sees her baby and realizes that the old saying is true- babies come through us but not from us. And God whispers the words He always whispers following another stoke of wonder: “It is good.” He created the child and He created the relationship. There is a sacred connection between mother and child.

And the journey begins on that first day of life and the journey is filled with a vast collection of memories:

The first birthday cake

Mud pies

First steps

Bike rides on Christmas mornings

Lines on the door frame celebrating growth

Time out in the corner of a kitchen

A sudden illness followed by floods of concern

Healing and overwhelming relief

T-ball games

Goldfish funerals

Messy rooms

Adolescent brooding

Consoling heartbreaks

Failures and successes

ACTs And SATs and waiting nervously for results

Unexpected tears upon the realization that the journey into adulthood would soon be over.

The mother and the child

Their connection constantly changing and shifting over 17 years.

And as they back out of the driveway, boxes and memories stuffed away in the trunk, one last time they are off. This time not to camp, or a game, or a weekend but rather to a world of adventure that mothers and father release them to experience. They’ll be back again and again- but the journey has begun. Their daily presence is gone.

But not the love. 

A mother’s love lasts, from birth, to childhood, through the teen years and beyond…

Endlessly unfolding…

The love never changes.

It is held in the mighty hands of Jesus.