Let Me First Say Goodbye

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Recent events in my own life have brought me to a new understanding of several passages of Scripture. Perhaps not on a cognitive level, but certainly on an experiential level.

First, reader, I share with some trepidation that my parents have chosen out of their convictions to “disfellowship” myself and my wife. Without going into detail about all that… it is this event specifically that has given me some new insights. I can’t help but share them, because I think these insights are crucial for the Christian to be able to move on from where they are… wherever they are.

The first is from Luke 14:25-26 – “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”” In this passage Jesus makes very clear that he must be held in regard above all other relationships. Our longing for him must exceed that of any other. What I have learned is that God has given both myself and my parents an opportunity to practice this truth. See, my parents love the Lord, in their own way. They are convicted that their way is the right way, and that my way (without going into what the actually theological differences are) is a way that leads to destruction. Out of their conviction, they have chosen to disfellowship their own son because of their love for God and a desire to follow him to the best of their own abilities. While I deeply, deeply, regret their decision, I must respect it. As for myself, my convictions remain true as well. I cannot change what I believe to simply match theirs any more than a mathematician could believe that 2+2 isn’t really 4 just because his mother says so. But this, in similar fashion, gives me an opportunity to show my love for the Lord above all others.

The second is from 2 Kings 19:19ff – So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.” So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.”

Following God is thrilling. In my experience, God opens doors that we didn’t even know were there, but we have to have our eyes opened and our ears attuned, listening for the call and the direction of God. Elisha, open to hear God… to understand what it was that Elijah had done when he threw is cloak over his own shoulders… wow! To respond in such a way that says, “I’ll leave everything behind and follow.” However, before Elisha could do that, he had to say goodbye to his parents. We don’t have a record of that conversation, but it should would be interesting to hear how that went for Mr. and Mrs. Elisha’s-Parents.

The point is, I suppose, that Elisha was ready to sacrifice it all for the thrill of following after the call of God. That is not to say that Elisha was hell-bound had he chosen to remain in the field, with is parents, working the farm. It is to say … well, here’s something I’ve come to believe.

Giving 10 percent of ourselves to God is a good baseline. God required the Jews, by law, to tithe. Many churches today ask their adherents to tithe. Statistically, few actually do. But when you read Scripture and you look at men and women who changed the world… they weren’t 10 percenters. They were 100 percenters. They were all in. They were men who left their nets, their farms, their families and moved in God’s direction leaving all behind. These were the people who destroyed enemies, won battles, moved rivers, walked on water, healed the sick and fed the masses.

I pray that God would give us all … more and more as we see the day of his coming approaching … an opportunity to leave behind the faith of our parents and find it unsatisfactory. I don’t mean that it won’t get us to heaven. I mean that God is still actively calling 100 percenters. I pray that you have a chance to hear that call. To know what it means with so many others to leave everything behind for the sake of moving with God in the direction of changing the world… bringing about his Kingdom on the earth. The truth is, people who live according to their parents faith may very well find their way to heaven when they die. On the other hand, what do we miss out on in the here and how, when we’re so busy listening to our parents faith, we shut out the call of God in our lives today?

I pray that we may not miss out on one more opportunity to hear God calling us to something more.

Weekend In Arlington

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So I had opportunity to drive down to Arlington, TX this weekend. Got news that my Granny is in hospice care. She’s 91 years old and… well… how should I say it, still giving people hell after all these years! I say that tongue in cheek… mostly because if my Granny ever heard me (or read me) use the word “Hell” like that, she’d literally put soap in my mouth to “wash it out.”

I love my Granny. When I was a very small child, it was a treat to get to sleep in Granny’s room, because you got to be and feel very special for a magnificent moment in time. Granny would either read (with her very animated voice) “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” or she’d make up her own story, which often began with “a fat lady in a bird-bath.” Not sure why, but it always got a giggle out of me. That’s probably why.

Trips to her farm near Lingleville, TX were highlights of my youth. The two hour trip felt like an eternity until we finally hit the gravel road that ended with her small farmhouse. I still recall feeling lit up inside to be on that farm with granny. Remember the smell of her famous yeast rolls. The smell and sound of a roaring fire in her fireplace around Christmas time. The dim lamp light in her living room as we sat around the tree opening presents for what seemed like hours on Christmas Eve.

She would chase us around the house. Tickle us until we nearly peed ourselves. May have in some cases, I can’t remember for sure. Encourage an adventurous spirit within us. Arm us with a 410 shotgun and set us free to eliminate (if possible) the worlds rabbit, possum and armadillo populations. Specifically because they were always ruining her vegetable garden. She was rambunctious, full of spirit, and alive to God, people, and to the world. She survived an abusive alcoholic husband (who quite probably loved her best he could in that condition). She survived a divorce, a serious car accident, many years of living alone on a farm, and truly God knows what else. Tenacity, vibrancy, joy, humor, love. All words I would use to describe my Granny. Sometimes affectionately known as Granny Grunt.

Not too long ago, Granny was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A disease that effects the brain, and therefore, the personality. Granny really left us long ago. In the nursing home, she has been difficult for her family, and even for her nursing staff to help. But that’s not the Granny I remember, nor eulogize here.

Tonight, she lies fragile and weak in a nursing home bed in East Fort Worth. She is in the last of a series of nursing homes. The last one that would accept responsibility to care for her.

My Granny Grunt is moments, hours, could be a couple of days (no one really knows) from moving out of her earthly body and into the next place. In some ways, I envy her. Wish I was going.

What I wish and pray for her is that God has a sense of humor. That the first thing she’ll see is a “fat lady in a birdbath.” Maybe then she’ll think of me, return to her old self, and long for the day when I get to join her there.

I love you Granny. But you know that already.

Happy Anniversary… Indeed

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It’s been 20 years ago today that I married my lovely bride Ginger. With the milestones that we have placed behind us I can say that it has been a rich and rewarding and yes, sometimes challenging 20 years.

It’s wonderful to see…

1) Our kids have survived their parents! Garrett is 14, Sam 12, Emma 10, Savannah 4 and Zoe just turned two a couple of day sago.

2) We’ve been doing ministry this WHOLE time. I have to admit, there were a couple of years I thought about making a career shift to McDonalds.

3) Most of the places we have lived have tolerated us pretty well! 😉

4) We still love each other, we love life, we love our kids, and look forward to another 20 years together as husband and wife. Who knows… maybe somewhere in the next 20 years… we’ll get to become grandparents.

Thanks to all of you who have encouraged us and supported us and prayed for us and whipped us into shape when we needed it. We love our family both by blood and by blood of Jesus.