The Wit and Wonder of God.

Sunday was a great day for craig and Amy.  But first…

After I was fired from my ministry position at Memorial obviously Amy and I remained in Tulsa.  I say “obviously” because, well…we live in Tulsa.  Although we weren’t attending Memorial Drive we’d hear stuff from time to time through the grapevine.  That’s how we knew Jason and Heather Thornton were going to interview for the recently vacated youth ministry position at Memorial.  My old job.

Although Amy and I pretended  we were okay with that news we later confessed to one another that our real and first thoughts were, “Anybody but the Thorntons.”  I also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt they would get the job.  Not because they were qualified (they were), but because God hated me and the opportunity to add insult to injury was a “just my luck” sort of deal.

None of this had anything to do with the actual Thorntons.  We liked them.  In fact we had known them for a while by that time.  We had worked with them in the Adventures In Missions Program based in Lubbock, Tx.  That’s why I didn’t want them to come here.

I won’t speak for Amy, but I thought “anybody but the Thorntons” because I was embarrassed.  For me the transition would have been easier knowing somebody I didn’t know had my old job.  I can’t explain that either.

Maybe it would have been easier to deal with unwanted, yet present, thoughts.  Of course I wanted what’s best for the kids I had been ministering to.  However, I didn’t want the new youth minister to be so successful that my previous ministry paled in comparison.  It would have been less stressful to be jealous of someone I didn’t know.  Please don’t think I’m completely evil for having such terrible thoughts.  As I said, I did not want to feel that way.  I just did and it drove me crazy.

Naturally, Jason got the job.

Sunday was a great  day for craig and Amy.  We ate lunch with the Thorntons and spent most of the afternoon with them.  We’ve been doing this once a month since June or so.  Two other couples are involved and all of us love this time together.  It’s sort of like being in a once a month small group.  We eat together.  Laugh a lot.  Talk about church and life.  And in the Summer we risk our souls by participating in mixed bathing.  Yes, you heard me.

We don’t sing, have never prayed and don’t crack a Bible open during these times together.  However, we feel spiritually energized.  Refreshed in an iron sharpens iron sort of way.

I look forward to these together times.  Jason Thornton is one of the reasons.  He always comes with challenging thoughts.  He always asks us great questions.  He always asks how we are.  He always makes sure Jesus is well represented.

On a personal note;  Jason has from the beginning reached out to me.  He encourages me.  He tells me how much I’ve grown.  He tells me I’m a good teacher and backs his words up by providing me opportunities to do so.  He believes in me.

I’m glad Memorial Drive had the sense to hire Jason and Heather when they did.  At first I believed God was punishing me for whatever.  At first I thought it was a cruel, but unfunny, joke.  Now I see it as the wit and wonder of God.

Sunday was a great day for craig and Amy.  Thank you Heather and Jason,  Melissa and Scott,  Jessica and Jeremy,  rambunctious children, God and Jesus.

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How I came to know the Jesus I know and the Jesus I teach.

When I was twenty years old I moved to Lubbock, Tx.  I did so to be a part of the Adventures In Missions Program (AIM).  AIM is a program for training missionary apprentices.  Eight months of classroom and practical training done in Lubbock.  Sixteen or so months on a mission field.  I spent mine in New York.  The first half of my mission term was spent on Staten Island with five other classmates.  Now teammates.  Due to circumstances we spent the last half of our term ministering at the Commack church of Christ on Long Island.  I went to AIM because I wanted to help Jesus save people.  I had no idea I was going to be converted.

It happened in the classroom.  First term.  August 1985.  The class was a study of the Gospel of Luke.  The teachers name was Rex Boyles.  The teachers name was Jesus.

Just as many people can instantly recall, in detail, what they were doing when they heard that shots had been fired in Dallas, or space pioneers had been lost,  or a car had careened out of control in a Paris tunnel, I can vividly recall a moment in Lubbock, Tx.

Sitting in a classroom.  Waiting for class to begin.  Jawing with my new friends.  Wondering what’s for lunch.  Class begins.  Introductory remarks.  Term assignments given.  Now open your Bibles to…The president.  Pioneers.  A princess.

Everything and everyone disappeared.  I was gone.  I was on a trip for which I had not planned or packed for.  When I realized where I was,  it came as quite a shock.  Where is Theresa?  Where did Mike go?  Dale?  Karen?  Susan?  Hey, who are you?  And you?  And you?  And…oh my God! 

I saw Him.  And He was alive.  And He was real.  And He was in color.  And I could touch Him.  And He could touch me.  And He did.

Rex has a gift.  For teaching.  For teaching in such a way that permits you to see – in color.  Vivid.  Electric.  Dynamic.  And breathing.  Perceived reality bows to the really real as the power of Rex’s gift releases Jesus from the written words.  To stand before you.  In all of His glory.  In all of His power.  In all of His “live-ness.”  In all of His “now-ness.”  In all of His humanity.  I believe it’s a gift Jesus lent to Rex because that is how He prefers to be known.  Twenty-two years later Rex still has that gift.

Rex committed what we recognize as a “big” sin.  He has been painfully honest.  You can read for yourself what he has said about this matter. (http://www.rexboyles.com/blog/). 

For me, when I stand before Jesus, I hope the mistakes I am accused of are ones which make Him happy.  I hope I am accused of being too merciful.  Too compassionate.  Too forgiving.  I hope when these charges are being leveled against me King David is standing by my side.  I can’t wait to hear him tell the Accuser to shove it.  Yeah, that’ll be fun.

I forgive Rex.  He’s still in the process of forgiving himself.  That’s hard.  As we all know.  However, it sure is made all the easier when the folks in our lives extend the hand of fellowship.  Am I right?

I work at McDonalds now.  If I was still in ministry I would do everything I could to expose the gift Rex has to people who need to see the real Jesus.  Retreats.  Workshops.  Lectureships.  Gospel meetings.  Weekends with my church.  Anything.  I would do it simply to make a statement.  To my church.  To my brotherhood.  To all the powers of Hell.  To myself.  This is how we treat the wounded.  This is how I want to be treated.  This is the way I want Jesus to treat me.  For my gross sins. I would do so because it is a clear signal of our sacred belief, and deepest hope, that the Father still waits for all of his prodigals to come home.  No matter how far they have wandered or how dirty they may be.

I would do this so others could see Jesus in living color.

I can’t do any of those things for Rex.  I wish I could.  I can ask, however,  that you read his blog.  And love him.  The same exact way you would want to be loved if…

Rex,  the Jesus I know met me in Lubbock, Texas.  It was in August of 1985.  You introduced us.  When I’m standing before Him, at the end of my journey, I don’t want King David to stand by my side.  Will you?  Yeah, that’ll be funner.

This is for Trey

Yes I remember.  And no, I can’t believe you have an 18 year old son.  I remember the day, we were sitting in class, when you told me you were getting married.  I also remember what pushed you over the edge.  Her overwhelming beauty?  Her radiant personality?  Well, you told me you woke up one morning  slumped over your homework .  Then you discovered the hand you eat with was submerged in the bowl of cereal (supper)  you had been eating when exhaustion konked you out.   Slumped over the table – hand in a soggy mess –  wedding bells.  You told me you thought, “This is stupid, I’m asking Lea to marry me.”  That she really is beautiful, radiant and Jesus- like also helped.   And me?  As a poor starving preacher in training I wondered if you ever finished the cereal.

Other great Trey/ craig memories

– keeping you busy so your wife could prepare a surprise birthday for you.  We went to a car wash and I watched you clean your truck engine.  Oh , did we ever have some crazy times back then.  We were young and invincible. I’m glad to say I left the party lifestyle long ago and can’t remember the last time I watched  someone wash a truck engine.

-the truck.  you were my wheels bro!

-fast food fast because we only had an hour for lunch.  I was blessed to break bread with you many, many times.

-Rex.  Remember how I always made a point of hugging him and hob- nobbing with him any time you were around.  I had a celebrity friend and you didn’t.  If it makes you feel any better,  he’s a social worker now and I make Happy Meals.

-Being table mates with you in Mike Strawns class.  Jude!  Hermewhatics does that word mean? We were so dumb the semester was over and we were still trying to make sense of the introductory remarks he made on the first day.  The ones where he said, ” My name is Mike and my wife’s name is Pam…”  (actually it was one of my all-time favorite courses and I think Mike is a genius)

Trey, I think you are a great man of God.  I admire you and your ministry.  I’m glad we have a place to continue our friendship. 

love, craig

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