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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What’s Your Story?

This past weekend we attended Mrs. Sweetie’s thirty year high school reunion.  Man, there were a bunch of old people there!  She says that someone can’t count because a twenty-nine year old could not possibly have graduated thirty years ago.  I’m just going with her on that.  And since mine was last year, all the senior citizen jokes just ricochet back at me.

Reunions can be interesting events.  We have attended together our respective reunions every decade.  There seems to be this longing to reconnect with your heritage.  There could be a bit of morbid curiosity, too, and maybe a secret hope that you have aged more gracefully than your classmates.  (My hair may be graying, but at least it’s hanging in there).  The best line of the evening was one gal who said she thought about losing weight for the reunion, but she didn’t think about it until that afternoon

At the thirty year mark, it appears that the connecting part has become more important than the event.  The decorations, the silly awards, and even the oldies music played by the DJ all took a back seat to the shifting clusters of people telling their stories.   And when you are the spouse at the event and you can’t join in the reminiscing, that is the only level where you can engage.

The stories and the responses were all over the map … the guy no one recognized because he grew seven inches after graduation … the girl with nine grandchildren … the girl who had battled breast cancer and won … the guy who had been recently widowed … lawyers, doctors, school teachers, private chefs, city managers, firefighters … nobody arrives at this age without a story.

As one who has spent all my adult years as a preacher type (or in Mrs. Sweetie’s case, the wife of one of those), I sometimes hear the “edited” version of the story.  That’s ok.  I can live with it.  It is what it is.  The really cool tradeoff is that I also get to hear a lot of the faith stories that  people might not share with just any classmate—or especially the spouse of a classmate.  I love seeing the moisture in the corner of someone’s eye when they talk about how God drew close to them during those challenges.  I love hearing about how they got plugged into the church where they worship and the ministries that they support.  I love when they ask if I have ever met their pastor. 

I recognized a long time ago that God is all over my story.  Most of the decisions of my life as a Christ-follower for over 40 years have been built around trying to discover how He has been writing my story.  Some people take a little longer to come to that realization.  But, the most important issue is not WHEN you arrive at that realization, but THAT you arrive at that realization.  God is writing your story and your life matters to Him.

Even if your hair has turned gray or turned loose.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


As I write this, the sun is just about to go down on Father’s Day, 2011.  Twenty-three years ago was my first Father’s Day as a dad.  This one has been my first as a father-in-law.  It has been a great day in so many ways.  I got to spend the whole day with Mrs. Sweetie.  I got to preach this morning in one of the sixty-four churches that I am blessed to assist.  But certainly the best part of my Father’s Day was the blessing of multi-generational voices. 

 I never get tired of hearing the voices of my children.  Now that the nest is empty, it is most often on the phone.  But it grabs my heart nonetheless.  Of all the names I have ever been called, nothing sounds as sweet as Daddy.  I looked forward to those phone calls from the time I got up this morning until the last one came in around 6:00 p.m.  What a blessing!

I did mention multi-generational, didn’t I?  There were two other phone calls that were a part of the day—a  very special part of the day.  You see, I am also a son.  And I am a son that is an example of the truth that “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  My parents divorced when I was seven years old.  That is not a circumstance that I would have chosen, but through it I have both a dad and a step-dad and I am blessed to have them both.  They have both loved me and their voices have spoken into my life.  I cannot imagine my life without either of them and neither can take the other’s place.  I am doubly blessed.

I probably don’t talk to either of them as often as I should, and now that they are both 75, I think about it a lot more.  I guess that’s why it was important for me to let them hear my voice today.  And it was important for me to hear theirs.  The Bible instructs children to “Honor your father and mother.” (Ephesians 6:2).  I can’t locate anywhere in the Bible that indicates an expiration date on that.  Because I know what wells up in me when I hear the voices of my children, I have a pretty good idea that it meant something special today when this “little boy” made those two phone calls.  My life matters to those two amazing men and to my Heavenly Father as well.   

Your life matters, too.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Driving for Dummies

You’ve seen them - those “Dummies” books that are supposed to make it easy for you to learn how to do just about anything.  I’ve never bought one, but I sure could have used one a couple of weeks ago.  If you read the edition of Life Matters a couple of weeks ago, you might remember that I had a little fender bender.  It was not my driving that caused the problem, but my driving got a little complicated a couple of days later when I lost my driver’s license.  Inside my wallet.  Both my hands were full when I was loading the car and I put my wallet on top of the car so I could have a free hand to open the door.  Dumb.  Then I drove off to a meeting in Jacksboro.  Dumber.

Several hours later I realized what I had done and the search was on.  Mrs. Sweetie and my favorite son helped me search around the yard and down our street.  We finally figured that someone must have picked it up, so I began calling and canceling credit cards.  By now, I was in full-fledged “I’m a big Dummy” mode.

On Tuesday after the Memorial Day holiday, I went to the Driver’s License office to get a new one.  After I checked in at the desk I started counting heads of those who were waiting in line.  Sixty-six people!  It’s amazing how much reading you can do during a two hour and forty minute wait in the Driver’s License office.  My friends tell me I should have gone to Weatherford or Decatur.  That would have been nice to know ahead of time.

I came home that evening with my temporary driver’s license and a fading sense of Dummy-ness. That is, until my wife walked in the front door holding my wallet that she had just found in the grass by the road about 100 yards from our driveway.  All the now useless, deactivated credit cards along with an invalid driver’s license were accounted for.  Dumb and Dumber.

All this was really just a little inconvenience and hopefully I learned something NOT to do.  And I went ahead and renewed my license, so I don’t have to go back until 2017.  Not quite so dumb. I still have no plans to buy one of those Dummies books, but I do know another book that is chock full of lessons.

Psalm 19:7 (NLT) says, “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.  The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”   Good news for those of us who sometimes feel like Dummies.

Your Life Matters.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Queen Mother

There are quite a few people around the Azle area that know me as the former long-time pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church. I am honored to have that designation. Not many pastors are afforded the blessing of serving the same congregation for seventeen years. A lot of really long-time Azle area residents know that before there was a Gerry Lewis at EMBC there was a Roland Earl. Now, there’s a legend. His thirty-one years as pastor make my seventeen seem like a brief sojourn. It was my honor to serve as his associate for four years when I was a seminary student. He was my mentor, my friend, and my father in the ministry. When his ministry was completed and he graduated into heaven in 1991, I was humbled to be called to the church as his successor.

While Roland cast a long shadow in the community, there was a less public partner who often stood in the shadows. Ruth loved being the pastor’s wife for two main reasons—she loved the Lord and she loved the pastor. Jesus and Roland were the only men for her. She was mom to their three daughters, Granny to their grandchildren, and a friend and encourager to everyone who needed either.

When I came back to EMBC as pastor, she graciously relinquished her role as First Lady and helped my wife to flourish in her own ministry and in her own giftedness. In one of our earliest conversations, she told me she had been the pastor’s wife for so long that she wasn’t sure what else her role was. I told her the she could be the pastor’s mom since mine lived so far away. There were times over the years that I went to her house for a “mom” talk when I was overwhelmed and needed to unload. Our family has included her on our Mother’s Day card list for the past 25 years. For the entirety of my pastorate at EMBC I considered her the Queen Mother. God gave me an immeasurable gift in allowing me to be her “son” and her pastor. My own mom has considered it a blessing to share me with Ruth.

A few days ago, less than two months after her 86th birthday, her frail little body wore out. She completed her ministry and graduated into heaven. The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15, NIV). We miss her, but I believe that on Thursday morning King Jesus got the first dance and Roland was standing close by getting ready for his turn. What a legacy! What a love! Their lives mattered. So do ours, even if we live in someone’s shadow.