Five years. In installments.

This is a big deal to me so I want to write about it.  My time as youth minister at Memorial Drive lasted for four and a half years.  One of the personal goals I had for myself was to stay in a place for five years.  As year four was ending I so wanted to accomplish five years I turned away from an opportunity in another state.  However, if you read my blog you know I wasn’t able to complete five years at Memorial Drive.

That was then.

I’m so happy to report as May begins I have finally completed five years of ministry at Memorial Drive.  It’s just that my five years were done on an installment plan.   I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.  Why?  I can’t say for sure, but it does give me a sense of accomplishment.  I have successfully completed a goal I set for myself when I moved to Tulsa in 1997.  Meeting a goal does leave one with a nice feeling doesn’t it?  Isn’t God great?

God is great.  God is great even when we don’t think He’s great because our life is anything but great at a particular time.  The last six months of my five years were hard won..  I’ll be honest- some of the time I was away from ministry I was not in the mood to win much of anything.  The last six months were possible because others never quit fighting on my behalf.  They never quit believing in me.  They never quit rooting for me.  People like my wife.  Like Terry.  Like Daniel.  Like Jason.  Like my elders.  Like the Memorial Drive church.  The last six months are more about their faith- their prayers- their hopes- their dreams for me.  In regard to me they called things that were not as though they were.  I thank them.

This is now.

Five years of ministry at Memorial Drive.  And counting.

One of the things the church of Christ does so well.

Let me say upfront I know other churches also excel at the following, but I’m more familiar with our story.  I’ve also blogged along these lines before, but it’s worth repeating.

On Thursday our friend Mary Watkins was buried.  The man she chose to speak at her funeral told the gathered crowd, “I am not a professional minister.”  Then David Combs delivered one of the most heartfelt and eloquent funeral sermons I have ever heard.

I grew up in churches that would not have been so open to allowing a non-professional to officiate a funeral.  More to the point the people in the pews probably would not have felt they had divine permission or a qualifying ordination or the annointing to do such a thing.  The line between clergy and laity was clear.  To be honest sometimes I had the feeling the holy men of those churches enjoyed the reverance or celebrity that came with their positions.

I’ve been around preachers who were literally surrounded by bodyguards.  Complete with Secret Service style wires in their ears.  I’ve seen my grandmother tingle with excitement because she was in the physical presence of her then favorite televangelist.  She honestly felt these sort of religious leaders had been struck by a bolt of super-duper Holy Spirit power not available to the common man.  Or woman.

My other set of grandparents attended churches led by priests.  Even their clothes set them apart from everybody else.  As we filed out after services I’ve seen my grandparents assume the posture of supplicants before a mighty king as they passed their priest in the foyer.  It was all hushed tones and bowed heads.

One biblical truth the church of Christ is excellent at living out is the priesthood of believers Jesus ordained with blood.  Mary Watkins was buried by such a man.  A non-professional.  A man who had more in common with a carpenter than with the popular image of priest or preacher.

In the last year of her life Mary Watkins was saved by a priesthood of believers.    None were ordained.  None were anointed.  All are priests.  They didn’t need a middleman because that position has already been filled.  Forever.

Their cathedral was a food pantry.  There on the altar of compassion they acted as direct representatives of Jesus Christ to restore Mary to her rightful place as an heir to the King.  They didn’t need permission to do this.  It was given on Calvary.  They didn’t need special training.  Jesus showed them everything they needed to know about ministry.  Anybody can do it.

David and Lisa Combs-  Two priests the church of Christ is so blessed to have.  A non-professional?  David, you can do my funeral anytime.

The food panty at Memorial Drive (now known as Mary’s Pantry)- Served by an outstanding priesthood of believers just like you and me.  Just the way Jesus wanted it.

Wednesday in Tulsa.

Another beautiful day.  All sun-all day.  Yes!

I like what John Lennon wrote in the song Beautiful Boy.  He said, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Today was one of those days for me.  My plans for the day didn’t survive the morning.  But that’s okay.  One of the things I adore about Kingdom living is the feeling I get that I am living in an action- packed thriller.  I find that energizing.  The lives we live in Christ are definite page turners.  Like a great book.

On the other hand, life outside of Christ is so predictable.  The same well-worn plot is recycled over and over.   It’s love-of-life numbing.  I can see why people try to break up the monotony of their inner lives with substances.  Or the accumulation of possessions.  Or certain behaviors.  Or whatever. Still the end result is almost always a dull read.

Today I have a new reason to love my shepherds.  And my coworkers.  And my church.  We really are a place to start life over.  For everybody.

Memorial Drive is producing some best-sellers this week.  Because of Jesus.

Tuesday in Tulsa.

It was a great day.  We had honest to goodness sunshine all day long.  It’s been awhile.  Today was also good in several other ways.

–  In the morning I ran into more reasons for respecting our youth minister.  He is a great man of God.

–  I had lunch with a member of our church.  His name is Lincoln.  We discussed plans for pursuing a new aspect for the video ministry at MD.  We’d like to film a series of testimonies using our members.  Since neither one of us is very creative in this sort of venture we will need lots of help.  It’ll be great though.

–  Lincoln bought my lunch.  I ate steak.  Thanks Lincoln.

–  After lunch I had a wee bit of time so I went to my chiropractor.  His name is Breck Kausbaum.  If you live in Tulsa and need a chiropractor look no further.  Breck is great.  He offers ministers a substantial and ridiculous discount too.  I paid him with my lunch money.  Thanks again Lincoln.

–  From Brecks office I went to Broken Arrow to meet a young man who used to be part of my youth group.  I haven’t seen him in awhile so it was nice to reconnect.

–  When I was with that friend I ran into another friend whom I haven’t seen since we traveled to Mississippi with Marvin Phillips.  We went there to help John and Maggie Dobbs.  Mainly I tell you this so Trey Morgan will know I hang with Marvin from time to time.

–  Every Tuesday night college kids come over to hang out and play games.  We had a good group this week.

I’m ready for bed.

For men who shave with razor blades. Not the electric kind.

Urgent Disclaimer!

In view of a couple of comments on this post the author wants to assure one and all he was under the impression that no babies were actually harmed in the harvesting of baby oil.

I read somewhere that shaving with baby oil prolongs the life of a razor blade.  So I tried it.  I think it works.  I’ve been using the same blade for six weeks now and it’s still sharp enough to give me a close, smooth shave.  By way of contrast when I use shaving cream a blade lasts about a week.  I saved five blades.  Ka-ching.  Advantage Craig.

At first it was a bit difficult to use baby oil.  Shaving cream sticks.  Baby oil runs.  However, I persisted in the experiment and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to shaving cream.  Now I’m wondering if “they” put something into the cream which lessens the life of their high-tech blades?  Ka-ching.  Advantage the nefarious shaving blade syndicate.

There are a couple of other reasons I’ve come to prefer shaving with baby oil.  First of all,  baby oil is transparent.   I can actually see what I’m doing.   It’s safer.  At the same time (because I can see what I’m doing) I’m shaving at record speeds.

The other reason I like shaving with baby oil is because of what it does for my skin.  No more razor burn!  No more irritation!  No more dryness!  When I’m finished shaving I rinse.  However, baby oil resists the rinse.  Which means I have enough left over to massage into my pert near forty-four year old face.  And after six weeks my face is beginning to feel as smooth as a baby’s ….

Today felt like Easter to me.

I realize the official Easter holiday is over, but today felt more Easter-y to me.  It was not because of the singing or sermon either.  Though both were excellent.  I think it felt like Easter because the church was made aware of one resurrection and witnessed another.

This morning we were told Mary Watkins died on Saturday.  Terry Rush writes more about her on his blog so I will not do that here.  Though Mary didn’t look healthy I was shocked to hear the news.  Several months ago she heard me preach and took a liking to me.  Our friendship was just beginning.  Now she’s dead.  Yet, for me her death throbs with resurrection power.  I think this is true  because Mary had such a difficult life- marred by poor choices.  Those choices no longer matter.   They don’t count.  They can’t touch her.  Because Mary died.  And then she died again.  It won’t happen again.  Way to go Mary!  This  truly is a resurrection victory… for Mary… for the couple who brought her to Christ… for Jesus!

This morning a man accepted the invitation Terry offered at the end of the sermon.  We all know him.  His family is a beloved and vital part of Memorial Drive.  He confessed a sin struggle in stark terms.  No one had to guess what’s been eating his conscience.  He talked of making deals with God and failing over and over and over…  to keep his end up.  I know exactly what he meant.  His face looked grim.  His body language screamed defeat.  His wife cried on his shoulder.  Amazingly, I saw the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in his face, in his posture, in his wife, in his words and in the response of our church.  Up from the grave he arose… with a mighty triumph o’er his foeshe arose!  I’m not referring to Jesus this time.

There were at least two resurrections in the life of our church this week.  Both involved death.  One for real.  One to self.  Neither pleasant.  But that’s way more than okay.  Because of Jesus.

Happy Easter!

Friday in Tulsa.

Wherever you are I hope your day was blessed.  Mine was.  And varied too.

Mid-morning I was to meet a friend for brunch.  He forgot.  So there I was in the restraunt cursing myself (Christian curses only) for not reminding him because I hate to eat alone in public places.  I also wanted to tell the waitress I really was supposed to meet someone lest she think I was lying about needing a table for two because I don’t have any friends.  Instead I ate my breakfast in silence.  Which was kind of nice actually.

At the church office I helped Norm Herron.  He wanted to show Sherri Storm the Susan Boyle video making the internet rounds and didn’t know how to find it.  I helped him and watched the video with them.  I showed it to Amy last night.  I love being with people the first time they experience something as moving as Susan’s song on Britain’s Got Talent.  You should watch it if you haven’t.

After Norm left I talked to Sherri (one of our secretaries) and her husband Russell while they ate lunch at her desk.  Their daughter used to play soccer with a daughter or two of Garth Brooks.  As a result they’ve been to Garth’s place a few times.  I made them tell me EVERYTHING.  One time Sherri’s daughter fainted in Garth’s private gym and Garth called 911.  That was a good story.  I’ll have them re-tell it from time to time.  I love to hear a good story more than once.

Here are some pics of other things which were a part of my life on Friday in Tulsa, OK.

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The pictures above were taken this afternoon at the Lindberg Elementary School Carnival.  Lindberg is in our community.  Memorial Drive adopted this school several years ago and untold good has come from it.  Today several of us helped at the Carnival.  Our leader was Jason Thornton.  The best helpers turned out to be his kids.

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The pictures above (but below the other ones) were taken tonight in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.  Our friend Brad Scott was the star in the play Cheaper by the Dozen.  I’m wearing a t-shirt that says Brad is Rad!  Yes, I know the s is backwards.  The play was great- Brad was better- we had lots of good laughs.  And we’re friends with THE star.  How awesome.  Amy and I are so thankful for our growing friendship with Brad and Linda.  And we adore their daughters.

What a great day!