Thursday, July 30, 2009

Slaying the Resentent Dragon

When my boys were small, I loved to make up wild tales to tell them at bedtime. Such stories were filled with adventure, colorful characters, and just enough violence to fulfill their male hormone driven leanings. Sometimes these bedtime adventures featured a one eyed green dragon, or some other kind of equally hideous creature. Thankfully such animals were only a figment of my vivid imagination, and had no basis in reality.

I find as an adult, though, that a very real one eyed green dragon occasionally surfaces in my life. The dragon I am thinking of even has a name. It is called resentment. The feeling of resentment can be likened to a one eyed green dragon. It is ugly, it breathes fire, and can reeks havoc wherever it goes

The dragons in my bedtime stories were never allowed to have free reign. They were generally slain by the hero of the day in some clever manner. There is something inherently wrong with a bedtime story that allows the dragon to terrorize its victims. What about this dragon called resentment? Can it be slain?

I have always thought in the past that the dragon of resentment was as difficult to get rid of as roaches in the kitchen of the local greasy spoon restaurant. That is not true. The Resentment Dragon can be slain quickly and efficiently. Only one action is necessary. Simply pour a strong dose of acceptance on the dragon, and he will melt as quickly as the wicked witch on the Wizard of Oz.

We resent people or institutions because they fail to meet our needs or our expectations. They disappoint us. In some cases, resentment is caused by betrayal. In other scenarios, it is triggered by someone hurting our feelings.
The Resentment Dragon grows quickly, and gets uglier and meaner by the day.

The dragon dies quickly once we realize that there is frequently nothing that we can do about the actions of others. We can only keep our side of the street clean. We cannot force others to treat us fairly, or to act in a kind manner.
The Resentment Dragon will destroy our peace of mind. He will plow over us with no regard for our emotional well being. A strong and often daily dose of acceptance will slay the dragon. I spent this afternoon slaying the resentment dragon, so tonight maybe I can find someone to tell a bedtime to story to…That sounds like more fun.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some Memories Will Never Fade

The church I served in Wichita Falls was an easy target. Situated in a downtown area right on Hwy 287 and only a few blocks from the railroad tracks; it drew all kinds of people just passing through town. They had all kinds of needs. There were people traveling across country stopping in for gas money. Families living in those same cars often sought much needed groceries and baby formula. Drifters using the rail system to make it to the next town occasionally stopped in seeking assistance. Most of these individuals were pretty cordial. Some were truthful about their circumstances and many were not.

One hot morning a gaunt and unkempt man came in the church office and explained his situation to our secretary. The social worker at the hospital supposedly had sent him our way. We of course had heard that story before. He was seeking a bus ticket to Denton, so he could enter a specialized treatment center of some kind. We had heard that story before as well.

Quite frankly I was tired of hearing the lies. I was not in the mood to be conned that morning. The church treating one family to a dozen shrimp dinners a few years earlier was fresh on my mind. Cynicism protruded the depths of my heart the morning that the man showed up at the church office.

I asked for the social worker’s name and phone number. He promptly produced both. I left him sitting in the church library among hundreds of volumes of books expounding on all sorts of biblical themes. I slipped back to the office and made a few quick phone calls. The social worker at the hospital was glad to hear from me. She sent him to the Church of Christ on the corner of Tenth and Broad streets, because she was confident that we would help him. She was appreciative of our willingness to assist a man who was facing the advanced stages of AIDS. I was feeling pretty humble, as I hung up the phone that morning.

I slowly made my way back to the church library. He was sitting at the huge hardwood table waiting patiently for my return. He appeared even gaunter, as entered the library. I promptly told him that the church would purchase his bus fare to Denton. The bus station was only two blocks away from the church, but I insisted that he allow me to take him over there in my truck. We stopped at Whataburger down the street to get him some lunch. I left him at the station waiting for the next bus heading for Denton. And as I made my way back to the church, shrimp dinners were the last thing on my mind. For a few moments the inclination to be cynical vanished.

Occasionally I still get flashes of that man standing in the library that day, and the words of the social worker run through my head…Thank you for helping a man who is facing the advanced stages of AIDS….Some memories will never fade. Maybe that is a good thing...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Famous Shrimp Dinner Case

There are times in my day to day ministry that I find myself inclined toward cynicism. In fact, it is a leaning that I have to fight a fairly regular basis. In 22 years of serving in ministry, I have seen enough of the darker side of human nature to fuel such an inclination. I have not always been that way. In my early days in ministry, I was actually a tad naïve and innocent. But that was all before the famous Shrimp Dinner case…

How he got my phone number I do not know. A man called one Saturday evening in 1987 in desperate straits. His van was broken down and his family was hungry. They were traveling across country and were out of funds. Could the church help? He went on to tell me that they were at the Imperial Motel. (A few years later when I started serving the police department as chaplain I learned a few things about the Imperial Motel.) The motel was anything but imperial!

My reaction to such a need on a Saturday night…. Well of course we want to help! All of the leaders at church were out of town that weekend, so it was up to good ole John to save the day. I made arrangements for the minus one star Imperial Motel to bill the church. I called a locally owned restaurant to make arrangements for an evening meal for the entire family. I felt so good about my benevolent deeds for a family in need.

The next morning I called the motel to see if we could make arrangements to get the van repaired. My family in need had checked out… The van apparently healed itself. They went back to the restaurant that had provided a meal the night before to eat breakfast, and lunch too... Of course the church is being charged for all of these meals. And then there was the grand finale of my benevolent gesture. My sweet little family charged a dozen shrimp dinners to the church at the same eating establishment on their way out of town…

I picked up the bill at the restaurant on Monday morning. At first I was embarrassed. And then I was scared the church would fire me! And then I got angry! The man at church in charge of benevolent funding was very understanding. I think he had a hard time not laughing! But he could tell that I was genuinely upset. I will never forget what he asked me that day .He said: What did you learn from this experience? That was the appropriate response.
I appreciated him for it.

I think the disease of cynicism entered my heart that Monday afternoon in 1987. I lost a part of my innocence! It became harder to trust people in need after the famous shrimp dinner case. I continue to learn every day that we are called to serve people. We cannot control their motives. We cannot wait until their behavior reaches a certain level of righteousness. We don’t have the luxury of checking out their track record. We have to love as Jesus loved. If we choose to do otherwise, we may find that we make some grievous mistakes. More on that tomorrow….

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Power of Unexpected Friendship

I am thinking about Geneva McGhee today. Geneva passed away at age 90 last week. Her funeral will be held in Wichita Falls today. She was in her late 60s, when I first met her in 1987. I was a young and very inexperienced minister. She was kind to me. She treated me like I was actually competent. She attended the baby shower for our firstborn. I was involved in several projects with her over the years, and grew to love and appreciate her very much. You would not think that a lady approaching 70 would have much in common with a 25 year old young man. But the best friendships are often unexpected.

In the summer of 1978, I stopped at Murfee Elementary School to play a pick up game of basketball with a random group that had gathered. One of the guys playing that day was obnoxious and overly aggressive. What a jerk, I thought… I forgot about him until our paths crossed again a few months later at Monterey High School. It turns out he was going to be on the traveling debate team that I had joined. My guard went up immediately. I am going to spend an entire school year going to debate tournaments with this clod?

It turns out we did end up going to a lot of tournaments together. In fact, we became best friends that year. He became a part of our family. I became a part of his as well. I was genuinely afraid of his dad, which was a good thing. His dad played a key role in keeping all of us out of jail during our formative teen years. When my mother died in 1991, he flew back to Lubbock to be a pallbearer at her funeral. Losing her was nearly as difficult for him as it was for me. She loved him, and he knew it. Scott remains a dear friend today.

I have realized recently that the vast majority of my friendships have been unexpected and even extraordinary. Who would think that a farmer 15 years my senior would be become a dear friend? I have worked with police officers and firefighters for many years now, and several of them, in a very wide age range have become very good friends. A couple of years ago I assisted the police department with a tragic fatality car crash. A sixteen year old girl was killed. In the process of fulfilling my role as chaplain, the young victim's father became a special friend. I need to take some time today to list all of my friends, and thank God for each of them.

Geneva’s death reminds me today that God brings all kinds of people into our life. None of them are to be taken for granted. Sometimes our initial impression of someone is not very positive, and God gives us a second chance to really get to know them. At other times, there is a huge age difference. God uses such differences to heap on the blessings. I am thinking about Geneva McGhee today, and I am thinking that the best friendships are often very unexpected. In fact, most of them really are extraordinary.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Inventory Control

When I was in Target the other day, I saw the employees of an inventory control company carefully counting every single item in that sprawling store. I shivered, as I thought of the idea of being employed in such a role. I am a self-proclaimed walking disaster area. There is no doubt about it. If a company entrusted me with their inventory process, the consequences would be dire. Bankruptcy for that unsuspecting corporation would not be out of the question. However, tomorrow morning, I am going to call on the church to conduct a very detailed inventory. Now that takes a lot of nerve on the part of a self-proclaimed walking disaster area. I have my reasons...

I am not sure any of us realize just how self seeking we really are in all of our important relationships. We enter marriage with the expectation that our spouse will meet a variety of emotional needs. We come to church expecting to be fed spiritually. We anticipate that our closest friends will be able to embrace us in a spirit of unconditional loyalty. Sometimes those very relational processes get short circuited, and we end up disappointed.

Marriages break up. Church members leave the congregation in a quest for something more spiritually meaningful. Friendships come apart at the seams. In the final analysis, the sun sets one day, and the darkness of loneliness sets in for the long haul. Can such a process be halted in its tracks?

It calls for a an inventory. It calls for a personal inventory of all the important relationships in our lives. You can't take inventory without a list, so it means listing every important relationship. And then a penetrating question must be asked: What am I contributing to the other person's life that is helpful and meaningful? What am I giving to the other person that is positive and enriching? Am I offering encouragement and comfort? Am I practicing good listening skills? What do I have to offer? That is the kind of inventory I am describing.

Target will find that their company is more profitable when they practice effective inventory control. They can know precisely what is on their shelves. They will in turn adjust their ordering practices accordingly.

I think we will find that our relationships are mutually profitable when we practice good inventory control. We will know if there are selfish atttitudes lurking on the shelves of our hearts. Such mindsets can be boxed up and dropped in the bottom of the ocean. They can be replaced with new attitudes that promote good will and long lasting friendships. Even a walking disaster such as myself can practice that kind of inventory control.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Whatever It Takes

Whatever it Takes is a very moving song performed by the group, Lighthouse. I took a few minutes to watch the music video of this song earlier this week. It includes some pretty compelling images. I recommend it.

I ask myself that very question periodically. Am I willing to do whatever it takes? Specifically am I willing to do whatever it takes in every important relationship in which God has entrusted me? It seems that I often come up with a plethora of yes but answers.

Of course I would be willing to do whatever it takes if the other person was not such a jerk. I am more than eager to go the extra mile, but the other party is ungrateful and uncaring. I would do whatever it takes, but I struggle with trust. I don’t want to get burned.

Several years ago a member of the church I was serving at the time was hospitalized. It is standard operating procedure for the minister to go visit and pray with a person under such circumstances. I did not want to go. In fact I refused to go see this person. This particular church member was mean spirited, divisive, and no doubt a direct descendant of Attila the Hun.

I made the mistake of informing Jan of my intent to boycott the hospital that day. She told me that I needed to go see this lady. I crossed my arms, dug in my heels and put on a defiant look on my face. I will not go… You will go, she said. You will go because of who you are and not because of whom the person happens to be. The other person’s character has nothing to do with your decision, she said. And then she went on to say something about acting like Jesus. How could I argue with that? Why did she have to introduce Jesus into the conversation? My hospital boycott was as short lived as an angry four year olds hunger strike.

I went to the hospital that afternoon. I was pleasant. I smiled. I carried on a very nice conversation. I left knowing that I had done whatever it takes to promote good will. I would love to say that the hospital visit triggered some kind of impressive transformation on the part of the person in question, but that is not true.

I no longer live in that community, but as far as I know the lady I visited is as belligerent and divisive as ever. It really is sad, when you think about it. I am quite certain a good number of people have done whatever it takes in building relational bridges to her. Maybe someday it will make a difference.

The music video of this song is worth a look. I strongly recommend that you watch it on

In the mean time, be reminded that yes but and whatever it takes can’t be used in the same sentence. I learned that a few years ago, as I drove up to the entrance of the hospital. I strongly suspect I will need to learn that lesson again. Are you willing to do whatever it takes today?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Childlike Scholar?

I was saddened this week to hear of racial tensions flaring up as a result of a black Harvard Scholar being arrested for disorderly conduct by a Cambridge, MA police sergeant. It is premature to make any judgment calls about that particular situation. I am quite sure that there has not been sufficient time for an internal investigation to be completed.

That situation stands in stark contrast to what I experienced this week at a church in Cedar Hill, TX. I taught a group of adults in a Bible class setting, while the children were absorbing the benefits of Vacation Bible School. It is one of the best executed Vacation Bible Schools I have ever seen. The entire church is committed to reaching out to the children and adults in their community. I noticed immediately that there was a good mix of races among the group this week.
The Hispanic participants in the adult class even had someone translating my lessons into Spanish each night. A number of African American Christians were present as well.

As I looked across a room that was racially diverse, I thought to myself: this is foretaste of heaven. People of different sexes, ages, and races coming together to praise God. And then a conversation with a Hispanic gentleman totally changed my perception. He told me about a church he was a part of in Colorado that embraced a bi-lingual approach to their worship experience. Lessons in English were translated into Spanish. Some of the songs they sang together during worship were sung simultaneously in both languages. The tunes were the same, but the words were different. He indicated that some people assume that would create a real mess, but that was not the case at all. He said it sounded just fine... He want on to tell me something that came as a total surprise. Over time the English speaking participants began singing the song in Spanish, and the Hispanic members in turn started singing it in English. Wow! What a commentary on unity!

I will go back to watch the closing program at VBS tonight. There will be children from at least three races participating fully. I am quite sure they will sing all of their songs in English. Seeing the children of different races in the same program is inspiring. I also will think about my Christian brothers and sisters in Colorado tonight. I will be reminded that we can get a small foretaste of what heaven is going to be like occasionally right here on Earth. It is ashamed that the Harvard Scholar in Cambridge most likely missed out on VBS this summer. Doesn't the Scripture say something about becoming like a child?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Waiting on the Surprise

I am so glad that I don’t own any crystal balls. I really don’t want to know what the future holds. It might be scary! When our boys were born, I did not want to know that life would hold for them at age 20, or age 17, or age 13. I have enjoyed 22 wonderful years in ministry, but I am glad that I did not have a crystal ball when I first started. I did not need to know what I would face as a minister at age 25. In another sense, the presence of a crystal ball would destroy the magnificent surprises that God has in store. Who wants a good surprise ruined?

I interviewed for my first ministry position with the Tenth and Broad Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, TX during Memorial Day weekend of 1987. The members of the campus minister search committee were so gracious. Several of them are still friends today. That Sunday morning we attended the young couples Sunday school class. Once again some of the people we met in that class on that fateful Sunday are still friends today. I remember specifically meeting Marty and Janet that morning. They were the parents of a young toddler. She was very expectant with their second child.

I ended up getting the job. We moved to Wichita Falls in July of that year. Janet had the baby sometime between the interview and the time that I assumed ministry duties that summer. We got to hold a sweet little boy not long after our arrival in Wichita Falls. Marty and Janet were great role models to us. They showed us what good parenting looks like. We were going to need such modeling in the very near future!

Randall came along almost exactly 2 years after Janet and Marty’s second son was born during that summer of 1987. Daniel followed in 1992, and Mitchell in 1996. Time has marched on. Our boys are at that critical age when they need role models other than mom and dad. All three of our boys have been blessed with exceptional youth ministers and equally dedicated youth ministry interns.

Shane has served as one of our youth ministry interns for three summers now here in Granbury. He is indeed a very dedicated young man. The kids respond well to him. Our youngest son, Mitchell has been dramatically impacted by his influence. He has been Shane’s constant shadow for two summers now. Having a shadow would drive a lot of college students crazy! Shane takes it all in stride. He has used the time in very productive ways to help shape Mitchell at a crucial time in his life. In fact, Mitchell has mentioned this summer his desire to become a youth minister himself.

We are very grateful for Shane. We are sad that this will be his last summer with us in Granbury. He is about to graduate from Oklahoma Christian University. I look forward to the day that a church calls me asking for a reference. A very fortunate church will have him soon as their fulltime youth minister.

As I observe Shane interacting with Mitchell today, I am thankful again that I don’t own a crystal ball. If I had been possession of a crystal ball in 1987, I would have known that Janet and Marty were going to name her their second son, Shane. And I would have known that he was going to play a major role in the life of my third child, who not come into this world until 1996. God was not ready for me know that fact 22 years ago. He was saving the gift for just the right time. And who wants a good surprise ruined? I am thankful today for a God of surprises.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sanding Those Rough Edges

I don’t have time to do much building anymore. I used to have some kind of project going all of the time. Several years ago I built the boys the coolest fort that has mankind has ever seen. It was complete with bunk beds, carefully drilled holes for water guns to be placed, and a host of other features geared toward boys of all ages.

I learned over the years to be careful with lumber. Even good lumber has rough edges. Getting splinters in a finger is a fairly common occurrence. Occasionally I would even wear gloves. I did not let the rough edges hinder me from building a fort or some other contraption.

As I prepare for our 25th wedding anniversary in just a couple of weeks, I am reminded that Jan married a man with a lot of rough edges. She has gotten more splinters over the years that I can possibly recall. Twenty five years ago I was pretty rough around the edges. And 10 years ago, a vast majority of those edges were still present. She came into the marriage with countless packages of sandpaper. And she patiently sanded one edge at a time. Even today she still gets out the sandpaper on a pretty regular basis.

Diligence pays its dividends. I realized a few days ago that I am not nearly as blunt as I was a few years ago. The rough edge of bluntness has not been eradicated, but years of patient sanding have caused a significant reduction in interpersonal splinters. I am more sensitive to the needs of other people thanks to the finishing process that Jan has undertaken all of these years. I am more inclined to share what is really going inside of my heart, as the rough edges have given way to a smoother and gentler surface.

I am so thankful that she did not give up on me midstream. That seems to be a common trend today. Couples give up. Someone is cast aside in a corner with a lot of rough edges still in place. They look like an unfinished project that is left out in the weather to face the elements. I am grateful that Jan was willing to spend a fortune on sandpaper. I am even more thankful that she continues to patiently work on the rough edges every single day without exception.

It is pretty amazing that I married someone with very few, if any rough edges.
My little bride epitomizes the quality of a gentle and quiet spirit that is extolled in Scripture. I have not been forced to buy any sandpaper for 25 years. I suppose I had better invest that vast savings into a really nice anniversary gift. Actually the best gift I can give her is a husband with fewer rough edges. After all of these years, I think she deserves it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Most Trusted Man in America

He was given the distinction as “The most trusted man in America.” That honor of course was given to news anchorman Walter Cronkite, who died this week at age 92. I remember watching Cronkite on the nightly news when I was a little boy. That of course was several years before 24 hour cable news entered the arena. What stands out to me are the daily images and analysis of the Vietnam War. I was just a little boy playing with his hot wheels on the living room floor, as Walter Cronkite reported on the tumultuous events in Southeast Asia that were dramatically affecting the mood of our nation. My parents listened intently and respected his opinion on world affairs.

When I heard of Cronkite’s passing, I wondered to myself: Who is the most trusted man in America today? In fact, I wondered who do we trust day? Do we trust anyone? Is there anyone in America that is trusted implicitly by a vast majority of the country? I had a hard time coming up with any names… It seems that that we more divided than ever before. Profound philosophical differences among us make it nearly impossible to embrace someone whom we will all respect and trust.

I don’t think I will ever be given the distinction of being “The most trusted man in America.” I gave up on pursuing that goal on one of many trips to the principal’s office. I am reminded however of the importance of trust in today’s crazy world.
I want to associate with trustworthy people. I in turn want to be a person whom my friends and colleagues can trust.

Trust is a trait that has gone by the wayside. I find that kids are far more wary today. Church members often assume that their leaders are up to something, when that is not the case at all. People tend to automatically assume the worst of motives when an event unfolds. Somewhere along the way mutual trust faded away as Walter Cronkite’s generation passed on, and gave way to its successors.

I am thinking today about what it means to be trustworthy. And I am wondering what that looks like today’s world? I am well beyond the stage of playing with my hot wheels on the living floor. (Or at least on most days.) And I am fully aware that my capacity to be trustworthy will impact not only my children, but their children as well. I was quite sad to hear of Mr. Cronkite’s passing. His passing reminded me that trustworthiness is a rare attribute in the world we live in today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Pair of Worn Out Shoes...

My oldest son turns 20 today. I wonder what he thinks about his growing up years in our home. He was already on my mind this morning since it is his birthday. A class at Camp Cornerstone today made me wonder about his perceptions of our home.

This morning I attended one focusing on authenticity in family relationships. The teacher flashed some photos of shoes in various states of wear on the screen. There was a pair of well worn work shoes, a pair of women’s dress shoes with a broken heel, a pair of faded Converse high tops, and a brand new pair of expensive running shoes.
The teacher proceeded to ask the kids to compare their life at home with the shoes they were seeing on the screen. I was quite surprised at their honesty.

One girl said that her family was like the high heels…broken. Another said her family was worn out by all of the constant drama between her parents. She could identify with the worn work shoes. I missed some of the responses
because I was trying to process what was said by the first few students. What do you do with that kind of information?

There is a part of me that wants to follow some of those kids home, and let the boom down on mom and dad. That is not very realistic or helpful. I was reminded again that every choice I make impacts my children. That is not really profound conclusion, but nevertheless it is of utmost importance. The selfishness of adults is so destructive in the lives of children.

Once my anger toward selfish parents subsided, I started thinking rationally again. I rededicated my heart to reaching to kids, period. I have no control over their home life. I can do my part to make their life better. I can spend a week at camp reaching out to them, and showing them love in very basic ways. Mitchell moves on to the high school session next year. I can give up going to this middle school camp. Or can I? Right now I am just not sure.

Today I am grateful for God’s grace. I continue to make a lot of mistakes as a father. I am grateful that God teaches us lessons in all kinds of ways, so those mistakes can be corrected. I am thankful that God accepts us, no matter what condition our shoes happen to be in the time.

Today I am grateful for well prepared teachers who have something of substance to share with the kids. The teacher flashing shoes up on the screen went on to make excellent applications, and challenge the kids to be authentic Christians in their home. He no doubt helped the students feel better about the family shoes they must wear everyday.

My oldest son turns twenty today. I wonder what kind of shoes he would pick, as he looks back on his growing up years in our home…

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Are You Sure Independence is a Good Thing?

It won’t last. It won't last long at all, so I had better enjoy it. Mitchell and I are at camp together this week, and he wants me to do everything with him. He invites me to eat with his friends, and join in his group for morning classes. He and I have our nightly debriefing right before lights out at 11:30 p.m. I fully realize that it won’t last.

I am actually a part of the camp staff this week. Camp Cornerstone is geared specifically for middle school age kids. Once again I have the privilege of being the Head Men’s Counselor. I do have 28 high school and college age men carrying the bulk of the counseling load. My role is to counsel them, and there have already been some tremendous opportunities to listen to their personal concerns.

Mitchell will move on to Camp Zenith for high school students next summer. I suspect that his eagerness for dad to be close around will move on as well. That is normal, and I expect it. Anticipating such transitions causes us to be more grateful for the blessing of the moment. When I was a young father, I could not wait until the boys could walk and talk, and do all kinds of things. I was in such a rush. Now I savor every developmental stage. Part of my inclination to be more grateful is the fact that he is the third and final child.

I recall taking him to his first day of school in the first grade. “Do you want me to go in with you?” Of course he did not want me to go in with him. He was a 6 year old searching for independence at that point. It was hard on me, because I knew that was the last time I would take a child to the first grade.

Independence really is a good thing. All three of my boys have gone to camp and other trips away from mom and dad with great eagerness. They have never been clingy or dependent in an unhealthy way. We are grateful for that as well. Someday they will be totally independent adults, and support their father in the fashion to which has become accustomed. (The truth is they will spoil their mother, which of course is the right thing to do!)

I have learned some new lessons this week. Dependent behavior is not all bad. In fact, I am actually enjoying this quick diversion off the fast track to independence. Maybe life itself for all of us is a constant see saw of movement back and forth between dependence and independence. We start out as babies being totally dependent, and after a period of relative independence we come full circle. As we age, we become increasingly dependent again. Both behaviors have merit, because we learn to give and receive with a gracious spirit.

Where are you today? Are you watching your child learn to walk? That is a good thing. Enjoy it. It won’t last. Are you caring for a loved one with lots of health concerns? Treasure the time. It won’t last. Are you healthy enough to drive yourself to wherever you want to go? Enjoy that too. It won’t last forever either.

I better go have that nightly debriefing with Mitchell. Such opportunities won’t last.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Servant Leadership is Still in Style

Our local newspaper recently reported the impending retirement of the high school principal in our community. December 31st will end a long and very successful career serving the Granbury schools for Marcia Grissom. Her commitment as a public educator has spanned some 40 years. I could not be more saddened. And that is saying a lot for someone who spent more than his share on the other side of the principal’s desk a few years back. Mrs. Grissom is a person of unquestioned integrity. Serving students is her calling. There are nearly 1500 kids on the high school campus, but she knows the majority of them by name. In some cases, she taught their parents in the classroom. She attends every kind of extra curricular event you possibly name. In my service as Debate Booster Club President, I have seen her go the extra mile time and time again, if she thought it would benefit the students.

When Randall began the process of applying for college scholarships in 2007, Mrs. Grissom composed a letter of recommendation on his behalf that he will not soon forget. I am literally sick that she will not be the principal to hand Daniel and Mitchell their high school diplomas. But life moves on. She will enjoy a much deserved retirement.

In light of Mrs. Grissom’s retirement, I can’t help but wonder if our society today still values the people who truly are pillars of all of our social institutions. I have colleagues in ministry who have devoted decades of their lives to the same church. I work with the law enforcement personnel who have served and protected their community for 25 or more years. Each of them will retire and be forgotten all too quickly.

People like Mrs. Grissom make a difference. They are the glue of the community.
They are consistent and faithful. They have made the conscious choice to weather the storms associated with their chosen profession. They truly love the communities they serve. Their integrity fosters what is right, just, and fair. We would be very foolish not to value what they contribute to our communities. And it would be thoughtless on our part not to not to value them as individuals.

It is the responsibility of my generation to pick up the baton and carry on now. We will face things that leaders of the previous generation did not. That is just life. But we have fine people to look to as examples of servant leadership. I don’t know if our efforts will be lauded or valued, but we must serve anyway. Students in public schools need administrators who will are totally dedicated to their calling. Churches need ministers who will give it their all. Law enforcement agencies need young rookies who will commit to the same agency for the long term. I am pretty confident that Mrs. Grissom and other members of her generation will cheer us on in each of our endeavors.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

It is the calm before the storm, and I am enjoying it immensely. I am sitting in my dorm room at camp in anticipation of being invaded by over 100 middle school boys in a matter of hours. I will be meeting and getting to know my counseling staff throughout the afternoon. One of my counselors from the high school session is back again this week. I asked him about his summer this morning, and received an unexpected reply.

He told me that he was involved in a ministry training program right out of high school that did not work out for him last year. He also told me that he was thinking in terms of reenrolling this fall. I informed him that I would put together a letter of reference. He head hung a little low, and he then informed that he had indeed been asked to leave that program last year. I said: “I know that.” I could tell by his demeanor that was case from the very beginning. I then informed him that is precisely why I need to write a letter on his behalf.

I suppose when an 18 or 19 year old kid sees an old man, like myself, he thinks that I am some kind of super responsible Christian, who has not made a major mistake in over a decade. Think again. I have just lived long enough to know that everyone needs an advocate periodically. Someone to provide a defense…Someone to speak on their behalf…And I lived long enough to be an authority on doing dumb things.

I am going to sit that young man down, and tell him a story about a 19 year old who was asked to leave a very good academic institution, because he failed an entire semester. He just quit attending classes. He did not even have the good sense to go and drop the courses. An entire semester was washed away. That 19 year old needed someone to come to his defense. He needed someone to tell him that there is such a thing as a new beginning. He needed a word of hope. Thankfully there were people who did just that.

That 19 year old is 47 today. He finally finished his undergraduate degree. He then went on to earn two graduate level degrees. And somewhere in that educational process, he learned to write letters. I am praying for my young friend during this calm before the storm. I am thankful for everyone who has come to my defense over the years. They are too numerous to mention. And I am composing a letter in my head, because everyone deserves a second chance.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sixty Years is a GREAT Thing...

If you ever make it to Granbury, you need to stop in at the Firehouse Café for breakfast during your visit. The breakfast special during the week consists of eggs cooked to order, toast or biscuit, and bacon and hash browns as well. I generally make in there on Mondays to eat with the DPS troopers and on Friday to discuss theology with the Firehouse Theologians.

The clientele at the Firehouse is pretty diverse. There are men in there making gas well deals. Several small church groups meet weekly. There are couples of all ages enjoying an early morning date. Last fall I saw James and Juanita having breakfast in there. James and Juanita had been married almost 60 years that point, but they were enjoying themselves like a couple of newlyweds. James passed away not long after I saw them that morning. I think of them every time I pass that table.

Angela and her family own the place. She rarely calls me John. I am warmly referred to as “sweetie”. Melissa has been waiting on me in there for about four years. She always greets me with a hug. Robert has been for about three years. I know about their children, and hear about their life issues occasionally. I always get them a Starbucks card for Christmas.

The eggs have never been cold, but if they ever are, I won’t stop eating there. I will be back in there in a few days. Melissa knows that I drink coffee, and Robert asks me if I am going to have the usual. It would take several major infractions to cause me to take my business down the street. I feel pretty loyal to my friends at the Firehouse. You know loyalty is a good thing.

In Granbury, we have the option of driving to Ft. Worth to the IHOP or to the Cracker Barrel. Those are good places to eat breakfast too. Their menu selections are far more extensive than the Firehouse. But Melissa is not there to provide colorful commentary, as she refills the coffee. Robert is not there for me to practice my Spanish skills with. If an employee of the IHOP calls me “sweetie,” I am running for cover! If the waitress at the Cracker Barrel hugs me, I am making a fast exit. I feel pretty loyal to my friends at the Firehouse. You know loyalty is a good thing.

I suppose mom and pop restaurants may someday be swept away the large chains. That will indeed be a sad moment, in my estimation. I think it is important to develop meaningful relationships everywhere we interact with people. The family that owns the dry cleaning business where my suits are pressed are friends. I buy my gas from a family owned store that continually extends hospitality to our police officers. They too are friends. It is hard to take your business elsewhere when you learn to love and appreciate those individuals. I feel pretty loyal to all the friends that I meet where I do business. I am not just a consumer. I am a loyal friend, and loyalty is a good thing…

Loyalty is just an important trait. People are going to make mistakes and disappoint us. That is human nature. It is easy to overlook the mistakes of those whom we hold in high esteem. At least, I think that is true… I could be wrong…

People sometimes abandon the most significant relationships in their life. People walk out on their spouses. Children are abandoned every single day. People leave churches that they have been a part of for years. It really is sad. I know there are very legitimate reasons to bail out of the ship, but it is still sad.
Perhaps I need to take the sentiments I have toward the Firehouse Restaurant and translate them to every important relationship in my life? No…I could be wrong again. I need to imitate the example of James and Juanita, because loyalty is a good thing. In fact, nearly 60 years of loyalty is a great thing. I will be back at the Firehouse after camp next week. I wonder who will be in there…There is really no telling. And there is no telling what I might learn from them. But for now, I know…loyalty is a good thing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Coming of Age-Part II

My grandfather, Raymond Knox, died at age 36, when my dad was two years old. That was in 1928. A former student wrote a letter to my grandmother a few days after his death. I am now in possesion of that letter. The content of it indicates the kind of legacy I hope to carry on for generations to come. Here is the letter:

Sylacauga, Alabama,
June 22, 1928

Dear Mrs. Knox,

This morning while on the train between Columbus, Ga. and Birmingham, Ala. I bought an Atlanta Journal and soon found the sad news of the death of my old friend, benefactor, and school teacher and your husband.

I do not know how to express on paper or in words the sorrow I feel and the condolence I wish to extend to you. But regardless of my inability I want to at least attempt to show my appreciation for what Professor Knox has meant to me. I had the honor and privilege of being under his instruction at Donaldsonville. When men reach the top in the teaching profession we are proud to have their signatures in our diplomas. Although this good man’s climb to the top was checked (by his death) when he had successfully overcome his greatest obstacle, I still feel that I have great honor in having his signature on my high school diploma. When I realize the heroic struggle he has made to attain his last successors I cannot but place him in the ranks of the truly great .

His struggle has also been an inspiration and encouragement to me. When teaching me he realized my handicap in going on with my education-lack of finances. He soon let me know that he was personally familiar with that problem. I finally determined that if someone else could make good in that line-without money, I could do the same.

Today I am an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. I have an A.B. from Pasadena College and an S.E. from Mercer, which I received when he received his, and have most of the required work for a Master’s Degree at Vanderbilt. I have also taught school for four years. Now I have not accomplished as much as I desired, but what I Have done I can truthfully say and gladly say has been done partly because of the inspiration which I obtained while under the instruction of this man.

I also appreciate Prof. Knox for his personal interest in me. He begged me to go to college and offered his assistance to get me started. While I did not go to the college he desired, I felt that I carried his good will with me. I finished H.S. in 1919 and lost all trace of him until I met you at Indian Springs in 1924. In1925, I went to Mercer and met him in a short while. He was a great help to me there last summer.

Here helped me first to get my application fixed up for a Tennessee Teacher’s Certificate. When I asked him to help me with it, I apologized for having to bother him so much when he was so busy. He caught my arm and replied: “Fred! That is what I live for. I love to help my boys.” Needless to say that I felt mighty good… His last and greatest emergency service was about the same week. I could not get my credits from the Donaldsonville High School. One day Dean Jacobs called me to his office and informed me that I could not graduate without my H.S. credits. I told him that I had been trying to get them, but could not hear from the Superintendent, but that I had finished under Mr. Knox. “What Knox” he asked? About that time Prof. Knox walked into the office and l answered: “That one!” Prof. Knox and I fixed up my credits, which were accepted and I was thereby able to graduate.

This is a very feeble attempt to on my heart to express my appreciation for this great and good man. Your loss is great. But you are not alone. His many students throughout the state of Georgia will join you in your hours of sorrow. May this, our mutual loss, and serve to burn more dross out of our lives and leave us purer good to be better able to do the Will of Him who came that we might have abundant and eternal life.

Sincerely yours,
Fred Floyd

Coming of Age- Part I

I officiated at a funeral today for an exceptionally good Christian gentleman. He was just a fine man. In visiting with his family over the past weeks when he was hospitalized in Ft. Worth, I was most impressed with his children and grandchildren too. That does not happen by accident. He instilled good values in his children.

I posed a question to those attending the funeral today. At what point to we become of age? At age 17, we are old enough to be treated as adults in criminal matters. At age 21, we are legal in every sense of the term. None of us truly come of age until we realize that we are leaving a legacy for the generation to follow.

In other words, we come of age once we realize that every choice we make impacts a lot of people. The commitments we make today have the potential to affect our children, and grandchildren in a positive manner long after we leave this earth. Unfortunately the opposite is true too. Our selfishness has the potential to lurk in the family for generations to come. It surfaces in odd ways.

We will leave an imprint on the hearts of our loved ones. What will that imprint look like? Will that imprint look more like an unsightly stain than a piece of beautiful art? I am not convinced that I have asked myself that question nearly enough. Perhaps at age 47 I have not come of age. The passing of good friends places all kinds of thoughts in motion. Maybe I will grow up soon and come of age. How about you?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Do Dreams Ever Come True?

When I was an undergraduate student at Texas Tech, the fall semester of 1981 was not a stellar experience for me. That is actually putting it in very tactful terms. The truth is that Tech placed me on academic probation after the semester was over, so I dropped out of school for a period of time. I went to work fulltime for an AC/Delco auto parts warehouse in Lubbock. It was and still is a family owned business that two of my college friends continue to operate today. I worked in the warehouse pulling orders for the auto parts stores that we supplied in West Texas.

I distinctly remember coming home one night and noticing small holes all over the front of my jeans. This is of course was long before jeans with holes became an expensive and desirable commodity. The culprit was battery acid. In stocking batteries that day, I got just enough acid on my jeans to burn small holes all over them.

I have been told that bitterness works the same way. It burns holes in our hearts like battery acid does on a pair of jeans. Bitterness is indeed corrosive and destructive. I am not sure that we recognize just how damaging bitterness is until the holes have been burned, and the damage to our heart is pretty extensive.

Bitterness…It is the person who has been betrayed by a friend who finds it so hard to trust again. It is the person who grew up in an abusive home, and can’t forgive an offending parent. Bitterness strikes the employee who gets a raw deal at work. It destroys families and sidetracks churches. In my case, bitterness was caused by an inability to trust and love people in a normal and healthy manner. I felt abandoned and scared after the death of both of my parents. I therefore found it difficult to relate to members of our extended family.

I let bitterness corrode my heart for a long time. I finally figured out several years ago that it is an aggressive acid that will eat way at every important relationship in our life, if we let it. What are we supposed to do, if that is true? I learned to respect the presence of battery acid when I worked in the warehouse, and so I did not destroy any more jeans. Years later I figured out that the acidic presence of bitterness had to be acknowledged and dealt with aggressively as well. That opportunity for me came in the form of a dream.

I had a dream about one of the individuals I felt bitter toward. In the dream this person was giving me a good verbal ripping! She was tearing me up good. I told her, in the dream that the rest of her family needed to hear this tongue lashing that I was getting. What would they think? There was a long period of silence, in the dream…I finally looked up and saw huge tears running down her cheeks. The person I perceived to be an aggressor was hurting, in the dream. I reached out for her, in the dream, and gave her a hug. And then I woke up…

Something very interesting took place after that dream. The bitterness started to vanish. It is almost as if I threw away the holey jeans after that event. My heart had been touched.

Bitterness causes us to see other human beings in a distorted light. It destroys our ability to think rationally and accept people, shortcomings and all. It distorts our ability be empathetic. It is just corrosive. Something has to stop that insidious process. In my case, divine intervention came in the form of a dream.

I broke the deafening silence that had been triggered by bitterness by writing a five page handwritten letter to those whom I felt bitter toward. My penmanship is horrendous, so it took several hours. I should also point out that once bitterness is eradicated from our hearts, we have the capability of being honest again. I was able to be honest in the letter. I was able to openly admit the laundry list of relational offenses that I had committed. I was able to ask for forgiveness.

The letter was received with open and welcoming hearts. Five years of silence was finally broken. A warm invitation was extended to me by those whom I now felt renewed love toward. It was invited to a physical reconciliation. It was a sweet and emotionally charged reunion. I was too nervous to shed a tear, so I waited until the drive home. Then I shed enough tears to irrigate the Majave Desert. The process of healing all of the holes that had eaten through in several hearts began.

I am pretty careful when I deal with batteries today. I know what that kind of acid is capable of doing. I am equally careful with interpersonal relationships. I also know what the acidic nature of bitterness is capable of doing. And I know now that dreams really do come true…

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The End of the Rope

Are you at the end of your rope? Do you want to give up? I have noticed a pattern over the years. At the very moment I am ready to throw in the towel, God intervenes. Occasionally I want to throw in the towel, and get completely out of ministry. The expectations are beyond what I can handle on some days, and so I dream of being a stocker in a grocery store. Facing the green beans on the shelf can sound really appealing. I did that kind of work at Safeway back in 1979. 30 years later it still sounds good.

The last time I felt the urge to put in an application at the local grocery store I spoke with someone whom I trust implicitly, and unloaded all of my frustrations. The pattern prevailed.
God puts people in our lives to bless us, when we are ready to give up. The grocery store lost out. I would have been a great stocker. The Del Monte green beans would have been displayed to perfection. After that conversation, for some reason my mind traveled back to 1986…I thought about a man named Eugene.

Eugene is deceased now. He was a successful farmer from the Texas Panhandle. In 1986, I was a typical struggling graduate student. Tuition at a private university for ministry training was expensive. I had an 80% scholarship, but that still left another 20% that was not covered. That 20% might as well have been the national debt. One evening Jan and I were having a personal financial summit when the phone rang. Our conversation about how to pay the tuition for that spring semester was interrupted by a call from Eugene. He had heard me preach my very first, and I do mean my very first sermon. He also knew I was in school seeking a master’s degree in Biblical Studies. The phone conversation was simple. He simply asked how much I needed to pay my tuition. I told him about the 20% figure. He said he would send a check the next day in the amount of $1,000.00. In 1986, that was enough money to pay my portion of the tuition, and have enough left to purchase books for the courses as well. He proceeded to send a check every semester until I graduated during the summer of 1987.

God’s timing is always perfect. I had no idea how I was going to pay my school bill that semester. I was working two jobs as well as taking a full load of courses.
God used Eugene on that January day in 1986. He used his generosity to help a student complete his degree. I even finished debt free. I am still using some of the things I learned that semester 23 years later. In a sense, Eugene’s generosity is still blessing people long after his death.

I needed to be reminded of Eugene today. Specifically I neededto be reminded that someone in my little corner of the world is discouraged, and ready to give up. I may not have a lot of money to give, but I can certainly share a kind or encouraging word.
I can ask God to lead me to someone who wants to throw in the towel and give up. In my case, it might be good to work a little harder on the next sermon to be delivered. Perhaps that particualr message could help someone from throwing in the towel. I don’t want Eugene’s investment to go to waste! His legacy of encouragement and generosity is worth passing on. Are you ready to throw in the towel? Don’t despair. Help is on the way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Don't Live in the Real World

I was informed by a well intentioned church member several years ago that as a minister I do not live in the real world. I think I know what he meant. His perception of my life as a minister is that I office in a church building. I deal with good Christian people through the course of my day. I don't have supervisors or co-workers cusssing me, or telling off color jokes.
I just don't live in the real world in his estimation! I still wanted to laugh. There are aspects of my job of which he has no apparent awareness.

I spend a lot of time visiting people in the hospital. In some instances, I am serving people whose loved ones are critically ill. Even fine Christian people struggle with all kinds of life issues. Ministers are on the front lines, as those concerns come to light. There are years that I officiate or attend over 40 funerals. Dealing with death is a big part of a minister's daily experience. It will never be easy or simple.

Recently I assisted a law enforcement agency with a death that occurred outside of a hospital context. The police call such events "DOS" calls. That is the abbreviation for "Dead on Scene."
I prefer to refer to them as "Unattended Deaths." When called out to such a situation, I never know what I am going to face, or what kind of people I will be serving. I have been called a few choice names in past years! And I have met some really gracious people as well.

During this event that took place not long ago, I was serving people who are making lifestyle choices that of which I cannot approve. I would say they are making a number of lifestyle choices that I think are clearly wrong. My officer friends would say the same thing, but would likely express it more directly. It is not easy ministering in such a situation. It is awkward. I find myself having to think on my feet, and make split second choices that have significant implications.

My philosophy over the years is to treat everyone the same to the very best of my ability. I think that is the right thing to do. There is no room for self righteousness. Judging the behavior of others does not prompt positive change. That does not mean that I condone ungodly behavior.

I still think it is important to live by our convictions. I still believe there is such a thing as absolute truth. But I do need to be reminded that I am not in friendly waters when serving people who truly are living in darkness. It is not a good idea to become comfortable or careless. I can't let my guard down. If I ever become comfortable in a dark world, I will lose my moral bearings, and forget who I am.

I am eager to serve all kinds of people in kinds of situations, but I still find it a challenge. I find that I have to ask myself: What do I believe and why? Balancing compassion and conviction is no simple task. It would be easier to choose the more secure path of serving only those who share similar convictions and life choices. I refuse to take that path of least resistance, because that is not living in the real world...How about you? What world are you living in today?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Excuse Me, But I am Not Stuffy....

Several years ago I participated in a medical mission trip to Mexico. This particular trip to Ciudad Victoria marked my first visit to Mexico. It was not uneventful by any means. The customs officials were highly offended that one of our doctors had packed some drug samples that were out of date. We ended up trading a couple of cases of Dr. Pepper in exchange for immediate immunity from our infraction. Dr. Pepper is a rare commodity down there. In my broken Spanish, I mistakenly asked two teenage girls from the church in Ciudad Victoria if they wanted to accompany me back to the hotel where we were staying. My close friend and colleague, Albert Garcia, could not stop laughing long enough to inform me of the content of my mistake. Later in the week, another campaigner on the trip, and me decided to walk back to the location where the clinic was being held. To make a long story short, we got lost. After walking for quite some time, and a wild taxi ride, we were finally reunited with our friends. I felt like a 6 year old who had gotten separated from his mother. It was still a memorable trip, and set in motion a decade of medical mission trips to various Mexican cities.

One of the most interesting aspects of the trip took place the week after we returned home. One of the ladies at church told me that she had a great time on the trip. She also told me how much she enjoyed working with me at the clinics.
And then she said…”John, I always thought you were stuffy. I found out on this trip that you can really be a lot of fun.” Stuffy? Stuffy? I have been called everything imaginable. But stuffy? Those who know me well will get a good laugh. I am anything but stuffy. It took a trip across the border for her to figure that out.

I have thought about that comment many times since 1998. I learned a few things from her observation. I have learned not to judge people or make assumptions. Many times we only see an individual in one context. I see my doctor exclusively in her office on a professional basis. It would be unwise for me to make assumptions about her personality, or her character based on that limited interaction.

I have learned in particular not to judge people’s hearts. I don’t know what another person is thinking or what is causing them to act in a certain manner. I can’t judge their sincerity or the lack of it. My training as a law enforcement chaplain prompts me to be suspicious, but that cannot supersede the need to be fair and just. A friend of my mind told me years ago that the worst kind of judging happens when we judge the motives of a person’s heart. I could not agree more.

I have also learned that it takes a long time to really get to know another person. You have to live through the ups and downs of life with that person. It is a matter of rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. True friendship takes a long time to develop. In the process, you find out that perhaps that person is not as stuffy as you once thought.

I am getting ready to preach to about 700 people on Sunday. I wonder if any of them think that I am stuffy. If they take the time to get to know me, I am sure the truth will come to the surface! Or maybe we need to plan a trip across the border? Stock up on Dr. Pepper and let’s go!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Would Have Taken Her Home

I wanted to take her home. I am not exaggerating at all. I would have taken her home, and never looked back. I got to hold her a couple of months ago at a local business ,while several police officers were investigating an alleged crime. I can’t repeat her name for reasons of confidentiality. Nor can I share her exact age. I can only say that she is an infant.

I was riding out with one of the officers on the day shift that Friday afternoon. The officer I was accompanying was called to a business to investigate an alleged case of criminal mischief. The mother of a precious little girl was one of the subjects being questioned. In searching the mother’s belongings, illegal drugs and paraphernalia were discovered. This of course led to further questioning and more investigation.

The officers were taking turns holding the baby. I of course gladly joined the rotation. They finally let me have exclusive baby holding rights, because the little one would always stop crying when I held her. I told the officers that baby knew I was a “wanna be grandpa.” She took a bottle, and dozed on my shoulder. I was amazed at how fast you can bond with a baby.

Mom went to jail. The child’s father is already in jail. The grandparents showed up to take custody of my new found friend. I reluctantly gave her up.

I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel in the aftermath of such an experience. One minute I wanted to spit nails or hit somebody, and the next minute I wanted to cry over the loss of my new found friend. I still don’t know exactly what to do with that experience now that a couple of months have passed, but I have formulated a few conclusions.

I now have a greater appreciation for foster parents. When I was in graduate school years ago, I worked for a man who had a foster child in his home for quite some time. He and his wife tried to adopt the child, but instead the little boy was placed back in the horrible home that he was once taken from. My employer and his wife found it difficult to talk about that experience 20 years later. After my recent experience, I have a tiny inkling of how they still feel today, some 45 years after letting that child go.

Every time I ride out with one of the officers, I pray that God will use me where I am needed. I realized that day that the service I offer may have to be ever so brief, but of utmost importance. I can only hope that I provided that child with a sense of love and security, even if it was for a very short time.

I would have taken her home and never looked back, but sometimes we have to do whatever God allows us to do at the moment, and be content. I am still trying to convince myself of that, but it sure sounds good. I wonder who is holding my little friend today, becuase I still wish I could have taken her home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Power of Love

Next Monday 86 volunteers from our church will host Royal Family Kids Camp in Glen Rose. RFKC, as it is commonly called, is a very special camp designed to exclusively reach out to children ages 7-11 who have been abused or neglected. The vast majority of the kids who will attend this year’s camp are in CPS ordered foster care. I ran across a compelling story from a Royal Family Kids Camp that took place in Kansas regarding a little girl named Dana, one of their campers. I thought it was too good not to share.

Sue Pierce, a Camp Counselor from Lenexa, Kansas, said that Dana stepped off the bus at camp and didn't say a word.

She did not speak all week long. Dana had been abused by her own father in the wicked of ways.
Dana had not spoken to adults since.

Even though Dana did not speak all week long the staff and counselors didn't make a big deal about it. They just loved her and chatted to her just like they would all the other kids. Dana's first year at camp was a success. She had the time of her life.

Dana came back to camp for four more years, not once speaking to an adult.
Sue said in Dana's last year at camp (and now 11 years old), Sue decided to play a little game of tag with Dana in the pool. On Tuesday Sue lightly tapped Dana on the shoulder and quickly swam away. Seconds later, one of Dana's buddy campers swam over and told Sue, “Dana knows it was you - she thinks you’re nice.” On Wednesday, Sue played the same game. On Thursday, Sue was swimming with the kids and she felt a light tap on her shoulder, she turned around but no one was there. Seconds later a camper splashed over and said, “That was Dana, she thinks you’re fun.”

On Friday, Dana's last day of her last year at camp, the kids were sitting in chapel. Sue quietly approached Dana from behind and gently tapped her shoulder. But before Sue could get away, Dana had already begun tilting her head backward. Sue stopped and saw Dana leaning back to look at her. After they locked eyes Dana quietly spoke one tiny word. She whispered, "Hi."
Time froze and the entire room was silenced. Sue smiled back and said, “Well, hello."
After five years, Dana was able to trust one loving Camp Counselor. We hope one day Dana will transfer her trust and her life to a loving Father God.

I am so thankful that our church is committed to Royal Family Kids Camp. I wonder what kind of stories our camp staff will return home with next week?