Thursday, April 30, 2009

Called to a Moment of Grace

Someday I intend to write a book. Jan has been after me for years to journal ministry experiences and encounters out in the field as a law enforcement chaplain. She is fearful that the details will fade, as the years march on. She of course is right.

I am going to title this yet to be written book: Called to the Moment. I firmly believe that God has called me to each key moment of life that I have experienced. His presence is very real.

In 1981, I was a free thinking, party prone, immature college student blowing through life with little regard for the future. According to official university records, I was a marketing major at Texas Tech. In reality, I expended the majority of my energies playing pool in the university center, attending fraterntiy mixers, and frequenting the dance floor at Coldwater Country. It was the end of the disco era and the influence of another Travolta movie, The Urban Cowboy, was seen in the college night spots. Wranglers and Justin ropers were the standard attire. There were too many late nights and not enough time for real life reflection. It was one big party.

In the fall of 1981, it all fell apart. I broke off a romance that should have never started in the first place. Tech placed me on scholastic probation. The academic dean apparently did take into consideration my pool playing abilities. Reality hit all too hard. I was a bitter young man striving to cope with the loss of my father three years earlier. I lacked direction. I was confused...

My sister urged me to look into Lubbock Christian College as an altnerative since Tech would not allow me to register for classes in the spring of 1982. I envisioned LCC being akin to a monastery. But I stopped in one day to pick up an application. Sisters have a way of being fairly persuasive. I just knew that I was defiling their otherwise holy campus by my very presence.
I found the students and staff at LCC to be friendly and suprisingly normal.

God intervened. I was required to take Bible as a core course. Long story short...academically speaking I actually did pretty well that first semester. But there was one exception... I had never opened a Bible in my entire life. I was lost and confused. My sister's husband, Rocky, is a true saint. He tutored me in Bible for weeks, and in the process shared the Gospel with me.
During that time period I did all that I could to ignore the obvious. I did not want to commit my life to God. There were things I was not about to change in my life. But, God intervened...
I was called to a moment of grace. I was baptized on Valentines Day in 1982.

This Sunday I will call on those present in worship assemblies at 8:15 and 10:45 in the morning to experience such a moment of grace. I am praying that God is intervening in their heart as Sunday gets closer...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Like People Who......

You like people who like your kids... Someone much wiser than me shared that thought when all three of my children were very young. Is it true? Do we like people who like our kids? I think I am hard pressed to find fault with people who truly care about my children!

Sandy Paddack watched Randall when he was only a few weeks old in Wichita Falls. We grew to love Sandy in a special way. Heather and Amy Hooten and Holly Hutton let Daniel go to sleep on their shoulders during evening worship services when he was 3 years old. They were all teens at at the time. Now they are married with their own children.... I love each of them so much. Terry Hutton took the boys to get candy bars and cokes at the Allsups. They still cherish such outings. Men from the Granbury Church of Christ ran out to Hwy #377 with me before church one Wednesday night several years ago. All that we could see was Randall's mangled truck in the ditch. We had no idea what we would find. I cannot express what kind of fears were going through my head. Thankfully he was uninjured, but they were there... What do you think of a middle school coach who inspires and encourages your son? Dirk Suitt could choose any career, but he spends his days coaching 13 and 14 year old boys. Coach Suitt is a saint in my eyes.

I didn't fully appreciate the impact of that insight until our boys became a little older. I have so appreciated adults who have hosted our children in their home, shared words of wisdom, and modeled Godly traits. My boys have been further blessed by outsanding youth ministers, who continue to take a personal interest in their spiritual and social development.

There are adults right now who are making a life changing difference in the lives of each of my boys. University professors, middle school math teachers, and close friends scattered all over the world. I have friends of all ages and walks of life praying for my children.

Who do you like? I think I like people who like my kids...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Search for Significance

I woke up this morning with an old Michael W. Smith song on my mind... The title: Place in this World. The song describes someone down on their knees searching for their place in this world.
At age 46, I still wonder occasionally what I am going to be when I grow up? I have had ample opportunity to find my place in this world by this stage in life. It has been an exciting adventure to say the least. I tried a few things in past years that simply did not work out. At other times, God just intervened and led me straight to where I could find meaning and significance.

As I strive to father three boys who truly are searching for their place in this world, I hope that I have not forgotten what it was like to be 20 or 17, or even 13 years old. Men have an unquenchable desire to find a sense of personal significance. As we age, it is easy to forget what a vulnerable time of life it is when a person is roaminthe night to find their place in this world, to borrow from Michael W. Smith.

I have thought for years that we make an impact on our children by being proper examples as God fearing people. We try to instill biblical ideals in their heart. Those endeavors are of utmost importance indeed. But it is striking to me today that one of my significant contributions to them at this age is to pray that they find God, as they roam the night to find their place in this world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I AM Sorry, But This Is NOT Disneyland...

Life is not Disneyland….

It was a beautiful summer day in 1992. Mom and dad loaded four kids up bright and early, and left the hustle and bustle of life in Dallas for a vacation at Disneyland. Plans were foiled however about fifteen miles southeast of Vernon on Hwy. 287. A car crash left both parents with serious injuries, and four pre-school children shaken and scared. The ambulance transported the vacation bound family to Wichita Falls for treatment. The injured mother was taken into surgery immediately and the father was admitted as well.

What do you do with four pre-school children who are temporally orphaned? It turns out that the dad is a sergeant with the Dallas Police Dept, and the mother is a trauma nurse at Parkland Hospital. Dallas PD contacted law enforcement in Wichita Falls and the chaplains on call went into action. One of the chaplains babysat all night, while the children slept peacefully in the ICU waiting room at the hospital. I took the next shift early the next morning. I will never forget the sight of four sweet little children in that waiting room in their torn and blood stained clothes. A trip to Gibson’s Discount Center was in order! The children were fed and clothed, and in a few hours their grandparents arrived to relieve us from a duty that was truly a privilege.

The parents recovered fully from the injuries and made the trip back to Dallas. The Disneyland plans were foiled for that year.

A few weeks later we received a warm thank you note from the family.

Helping that family was one of the joys of being a chaplain. They were nice people with sweet kids. The entire scenario was a tragedy that actually had a happy ending. There were gracious sentiments expressed by everyone.

But….let us be reminded. We are frequently called to serve in situations that don’t have happy endings. We are often called to assist people that are not gracious. Sometimes we are cursed at by belligerent adults instead of being received by children eager to make a new friend. We are here to serve.
Serve on the good days and serve on the bad days. We need to remember occasionally….life is not Disneyland.

Cops and Ministers: You Must be Kidding??

As we strive to form meaningful partnerships in law enforcement, it important for us to acknowledge not only our unique contributions to the team, the ways we are similar as well. I have said for years that cops and ministers are a lot alike. That observation usually generates a good laugh, but at a recent conference someone actually shared a list of such similarities. Here they are:

Clergy and Cops
Such Striking Similarities!


· Uphold laws and values
· Ridiculed rather than revered
· Mocked by people who need most help
· Often called in to late
· Advice seldom heeded
· Never off duty
· Stereotyped
· High emotional cost
· Often lied to
· Public misunderstands role in society
· Many acquaintances…few friends
· High highs, low lows
· Want to help everybody
· Calling is to encourage support, and help, but we are reluctant to ask for the same!

Musings from Easter Sunday

Easter is an interesting Sunday. A lot of people attend worship services who are rarely seen during the remainder of the year. I can relate.... I have been there. I always went to church on Easter with whatever girl I was seeing at the time, when I was younger. Here is a synopsis of my message last Sunday.

Transformation REALLY HAPPENS!
Do people really change? Human nature is corrupt. There is nothing innocent about us! Only a cursory reading of the Old Testament serves as a convincing reminder that the sinful nature is all too real. Genesis alone is filled with dark stories of hate, murder, immoral conduct, and disdain for the authority of God.
Do people really change? A young and proud 17 year old Joseph forgives his brothers after experiencing separation from his family, false accusations, and imprisonment. Joseph appears to have changed…His heart experiences a transformation somewhere along the journey. I can’t help but think of the phrase seen repeatedly in Scripture in reference to Joseph: And the Lord was with Joseph… But do people today really change? Is transformation just an element of a fairy tale that never comes true? Churches are filled to the brim with people who display their imperfections for the whole world to see on some days. And on other days heinous secrets remain secluded in the depths of hearts darkened by sin. I don’t think people ever really change…We are just a hopeless lot of flawed human beings. Thankfully that is not true.
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
Outside of Christ there is no hope for spiritual transformation, or long lasting, meaningful life change. The resurrection of Jesus opens the door for an authentic conversion of the heart that leads to life transformation.
1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:1-4)
A new life in Christ is made possible by the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Together: We Celebrate the Journey

I suppose you can say that I have been a frustrated blogger for quite some time now. I do a lot of journaling and compose essays as well. But sharing such material online? That has been a little beyond me up until now.
I hope by sharing journal entries, essays, and even sermon thoughts my friends will know me better. Pehaps this blog will serve as a great opportunity for interaction.
So, here goes...my hope is for mutual encouragement.
Blessings,
John