A Giant

8 Mar

I don’t know how many years ago it was …  Had to be 2002 or 2003.  My friend Olin Bullock had this friend from Wellman.  A leadership guru.  Olin wanted so badly for his friend to spend time with me and our church staff and he (Olin) funded it and made it happen.

And, into our lives walked a ball of fire, a box of dynamite, and a hurricane all rolled up into a man named Tommy Dowling.

You didn’t have to spend much time around Tommy to realize that he LOVED God with all of his heart.  And he loved The Church!  (The Big C church … the Body of Christ)

Tommy spent a great deal of time with me, a young pastor.  With our staff.  He got to know us.  He gave us the Myers-Briggs.  He broke it down and taught us so much about how we related to each other and how we could identify and relate to others.  And, 99,999 out of 100,000 times, he was DEAD-ON!!!  He had a gift, a knack for reading people and helping to bring the best out in them.

He pushed me to READ.  Gave me books, made me read them, and came back to drink coffee and make ME talk about them.  I will never forget him for this, because he re-ignited my passion for learning and knowing more about leadership.  He reminded me that I will NEVER have it all licked, and I can always continue to learn.  When I stop learning, I start dying.  He was so right!!

One of those times he came to meet with me, he came early and walked through the Ebenezer cemetery.  He was shocked and a little “caught off guard”  (WHICH WAS A RARE THING) when he came across a headstone of a man named Thomas Dowling who had died around 140 years ago.  He told me that drained the blood out of his face for just a moment.  But, I will never forget what he said next:

(It was something like this:)

“When the day comes for y’all to lay me in a grave, DO NOT CRY FOR ME.  I KNOW where I am going, and I will be most glad to be there!!!!

He told me that probably 100 times over the years.

Tomorrow, as his family gathers to honor his life, that is EXACTLY what I will be hearing.  I will never forget it.  And I will never forget him.

THANK YOU TOMMY, for all that you did for a young-un like me, and a TON of other pastors across this nation!!!!  You are a TRUE GIANT in the Kingdom of God!!!

TRUST

1 Jan

Can you really live without TRUST?  From an early age, we live and make decisions based on what we think we know to be true.  TRUTH.  What we TRUST to be the REALITY around us.  Sometimes life does throw us a curveball, and we cannot even explain it.  And sometimes our fellow men and women do the same.  We cannot control LIFE and all of it’s circumstances, but we can control whom we TRUST.

Many years ago, a professor likened TRUST between people to a bank account.  For example:  When I first met you (if I know you), I began to keep a mental account of you and you did the same of me.  Every time I tell you something that is TRUE or do something reliable, I make a deposit in your account and vice versa.  Every time I tell you something that is NOT true or do something that is untrustworthy, I make a withdrawal.

Whether you realize it or not, most of us view relationships that way.  When a person repeatedly tells you untruths or does things that are untrustworthy, they deplete their account and eventually you have no trust left for them.  If and when this happens, they must build that trust back up before the relationship with be healthy.

In other words, if a person is genuine, true, and seems to care, you will naturally trust them more.  If they continue to abuse your relationship and do things that make you think they don’t care, your relationship will run out of gas.

MAKE SENSE???

SO … A great thing to do to start 2019 would be to take stock of the people around you and the way YOU impact those relationships.  I cannot control those around me, but I can control how I respond to them.  And I can choose to bring my best to the relationship!!!

And, so can you!!!

You DO realize people are watching … Right??

2 Dec

Honestly, if there were not so many people using Facebook and social media to contact me, I would leave it all.  In a heartbeat.

Usually when I post something like this, I lose a few friends.  That is quite alright.  You don’t have to read this.  You don’t have to agree.  We can disagree and still be friends.  But I have watched this year.

I have seen friends come to blows over politics.  Over football.  Over things that are really insignificant in the grand scheme of life.

I have watched ministers, and leaders of local ministries, and public servants post things that were the equivalent of throwing an emotional hand-grenade into a crowded room.  And, people fall for it.  And fight.  And it does NOT glorify God at all.  And I know, deep in my heart, that God grieves.  And these men and women are falling into a trap.  They are kissing their credibility to do ministry good-bye.  I know I have lost respect for some people I love in the past few weeks.  It is sad.

And I huff, and I puff, and I try to remind them their words matter.  And my words fall on ears that do not hear and hearts that do not perceive.  (Honestly, I have no idea WHY it grieves my heart so much to watch this, but it does…  I have made mistakes, too.  Maybe that is why I am so aware of this.)

I guess if I could say one thing to EVERYONE, it would be this:  Do you realize the words you share are READ by far more people than you would imagine??  And that they might be making judgments about the Kingdom of God, about YOUR church and ministry, and about our community, BASED on your words??  Whether that be fair or unfair??

I wish EVERYONE would realize that our words matter.  Choose them wisely.  You want to make a splash in your world???  Show them Christ.  Show them positivity.  Show them love.

 

Today I heard his voice

15 Oct

Today I heard his voice.  As I was walking out of a store and a lady was walking in.  She held her arm up high to shield the sun and remarked “it’s so bright today!!”  I answered “Yes, ma’am!”  And I heard it.

I will admit that I hear his voice and I see him ever so often.  I hear his words come out of my mouth and I do an internal double-take:  Did I REALLY just say that??  I see him, not as much in me as I see him in Drew.  He had this way of crawling into the smallest spaces.  Drew has that way.  And, even though Drew never really got to work with him, he works just like him.  And that makes me proud.

When I hear his voice, I miss him.  And it reminds me that I am living a legacy…  Continuing the work.  My dad will not go down in history as a great theologian, but he lived the love of Christ.  To love God and love others.  He showed it in his own way.  I saw it  And now, my job is to continue to live it.

And, not only to live it, but to teach my children the legacy.  And, perhaps someday, grandchildren.  And maybe one day, decades from now, my children will hear voices, too.  And they will see something around them.  And maybe, perhaps, they will think of me.  If only I can do half of the job that Don Wike did.  I’ll be okay!!!

An Open Letter to my LEO friends

12 Oct

I’ve thought about you and your families so much in the past couple of weeks.  The community of Florence, SC, has been through so much.  We are experiencing something other communities have experienced, but it hurts more for us when it hits close to home.  And it has hit about as close to home as it can …

So, I wanted to share some thoughts with you, my LEO friends.

  1.  YOU ARE LOVED.  I KNOW this to be true in Florence, SC.  Floods come, hurricanes roll through, and now even active shooters do their evil.  And, every time, you run toward the danger.  You stand between the danger and me.  Between the danger and the people you serve and love.  And we love you for it.  We are safe because you are there.  Please don’t ever forget that.
  2. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  In past days, people have asked “HOW COULD SOMEONE?  WHY DO PEOPLE HATE LEOS SO MUCH?”  And I know some of you have questioned if you even make a difference.  YOU DO.  Your presence provides safety.  Your presence STOPS tragedies.  Your presence ENDS violence.  Please don’t ever forget that, because WE WON’T.
  3. WHEN YOU HURT, WE HURT.  At least, those of us who pray fervently for you.  We do not know and cannot conceive of the danger you face.  But, when you hurt, we hurt with you.  And many of us will pray and pray and pray for you.  Please don’t ever forget that.
  4. YOU HELP US SO MUCH, THAT WE WANT TO HELP YOU.  I promise that to be true.  I cannot speak for other towns and cities, but I KNOW Florence, SC, does not take you for granted.  And I pray that we never will.  PLEASE, tell us how to help you and we will do it.  I PROMISE!!  Please REMEMBER that!!!

May God bless you, peacemakers!!!!

Church… There is no substitute

24 Sep

There is something about the church.  Something special.  In Matthew 18, Jesus Himself said wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there with us.  Think about it!!

The church brings so much more value into the lives of its family than one could imagine.  We celebrate each other’s victories.  We shoulder each other’s burdens.  We hold each other accountable.  We strive together for a deeper understanding of the Word of God.  We band together to work as one body in this world, achieving far more as one body than we would ever achieve as individuals.  There really is no substitute.

Over the years, I have heard many points of debate about the church and a Christian’s need to be part of it.  “I can worship God on a softball field (or from a boat or a deer stand).”  Yes, certainly you can worship God from anywhere.  But the church is NOT ONLY ABOUT WORSHIP!!

“My children attend a Christian school.  They are getting plenty of Bible education.”  (By the way, I attended a Christian school.  And used that excuse, too.)  If the church were ONLY about EDUCATION, that might work.  But it is not!

“I am involved in a community Bible study.”  That is AWESOME!!  WONDERFUL!!  Discipleship is definitely a HUGE need within the church.  But, the church is not only about discipleship.

I would ask “Where do you practice stewardship?  Where do you engage in ministry?  How do you pour into the lives of the next generation?”  In other words, you need to find a church family.  And be true to that family, wherever it might be!!

And, in all honesty, when we spread ourselves across the community and attempt to replace the church with different activities, 99% of the time we are trying to AVOID ACCOUNTABILITY.  Because NO ONE likes to be held accountable.  But a huge role the church plays in the lives of its family is accountability.  If you walk away from accountability, you will eventually walk away from the family of God.  (I’ve seen that happen, pretty much 99 times out of 100.)

There really is no substitute for engaging in a church family.

The Morning After

16 Sep

Okay, Ebenezer, I DO NOT like this “being home on Sunday morning.”  Not one bit.  There is so much to be thankful for, but I wish I could see you guys.  Look you in the eyes.  Know that my family is okay.

At Wednesday Night Bible Study, we talked a little about Jesus calming the storm.  As we shared those words and prayed, all of the experts were telling us that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane was going to SLAM into our coast and obliterate us.  And do record-breaking damage to South Carolina, North Carolina, and a good bit of the Eastern Seaboard.  So we braced for it.  We prepared.  We cancelled Sunday worship because the forecast showed the eye of the storm about 30 miles due south of us on Sunday at 8am.  And we waited.

Two memes I saw told the story:  One said waiting on this hurricane was like being stalked by a TURTLE.  True!!  The other struck more fear into my heart .. It said that waiting for this hurricane was like waiting for your father to get home, KNOWING that you were in trouble and you were gonna get a good spanking!!!  (It didn’t quite say that, but that is the clean version)  Honestly, I’ve been there and done that more than I care to say.

SO… We sat, glued to the TV and internet.  Hearing this storm would break all of the records.  CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And we prayed.  And there was NO WAY this storm was not going to completely gut the eastern side of both states.

But God wasn’t writing the story that way.  It is true, there were people who lost their lives in the storm.  There are cities and families whose worlds are COMPLETELY DEMOLISHED.  But God was at work.  Right before the storm came ashore, it apparently hit a pocket of dry air that no one saw coming.  The mighty Cat4/5 hurricane was deflated to a mere ONE when it came ashore.  The path of devastation was reduced to a more confined area.  Now, do not take these words lightly:  THESE PEOPLE NEED OUR HELP.  And will need it for WEEKS TO COME.  This, too, is how God works.  He calls His people to make a difference in His world.

I do not make lightly of the damage, of the water and wind, and of the storm.  But I am afraid we were all so hypnotized by the radar, the forecasts, and the science of it all that we forgot one HUGE important factor:

GOD IS GOD OF ALL.  EVEN THE STORM!!!

My friend Lyn Myrick felt compelled to read this at the end of our Bible Study.  He told us it was his favorite passage.

Psalm 46 (NIV)

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

I am afraid we all forgot that GOD IS OUR REFUGE.  And even when the earth gives way, and the mountains fall into the sea, HE IS STILL IN CONTROL.

And, instead of being angry with our weather forecasters and our government, perhaps we should be thankful that God deflated a Cat4/5 storm.  We prayed, He moved His hand, and look what happened!!!!!!!