Saturday, December 9, 2023

My Desperate Parking Lot Prayer

My Desperate, Parking Lot Prayer


God changed the direction of my life 25 years ago today.  I don't pray for my sports teams to win games, and I don't normally ask God to do ridiculous things for me, but 25 years ago today, I did.  

About 100 days before my desperate prayer, I had entered the crisis of my life.  

In August 1998, I moved to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  After two weeks of classes, I found out that the bad debt of another person named Kevin Elders had been attributed to me.  My student loan was denied.  The major credit agencies said it would take a minimum of 6 months to clear my credit record.  Meanwhile, I owed my entire tuition bill and couldn’t pay it.  Additionally, I wouldn't be eligible for a student loan for the spring.  At the counsel of one of my college professors, I withdrew and came home.  

I had stubbornly forced that move to seminary.  Two years earlier, I had graduated from North Greenville College with a ministry degree, and I'd been serving my home church as part-time youth pastor for the previous 1.5 years.  Even so, I thought I needed more education before I pursued a full-time position.  My church called a new pastor in March of 1998.  Shortly after he started, he asked if I was interested in being the full-time youth pastor.  I told him I was going to seminary in August, and I didn't even consider interviewing for the full-time position. I realized later how foolish that was.

My plan completely fell apart on my 25th birthday.  Everything caved in on me so quickly.  No school.  No plan.  No job.  I'd given up TWO JOBS I LOVED to go to seminary.  All of that was bad, but a few days later, I got CRUSHED.  The girl I thought I was going to marry broke up with me over the whole thing. 

Over the next 100 days, I worked four different jobs I didn't like, sometimes two of them at a time.  I tried to give the girl time and space but grew increasingly distraught over her.  I lost 20 pounds I didn't need to lose.  I got shingles from all the worry and stress. Since my church had a new youth pastor, I stayed away and became a church drifter - here one week, there the next.

I was a mess.  All I did was work and lift weights.

On December 14, I pulled into my gym parking lot about 10am and just sat in my car.  I was tired of being sad.  I was mad at myself for how I felt and how I was handling things.  The girl was moving on without me.  In that moment of desperation, I asked God for something ridiculous, and I still remember my words clearly: 

"Father, I'm tired of hurting.  I don't want to feel like this any more.  I don't know how to move on from her.  I don't even want to move on from her.  Please let there be a girl in here today that I'm attracted to.  I'm not asking for a wife.  I'm not asking for a date.  I just want to be attracted to somebody else."  

That sounds realistic enough, but at 10am, most of the people at my gym were senior adults.  I was asking for a miracle and I knew it, but I walked to the door fully expecting to see a pretty girl in there.  Guess what.  I didn't even get inside the door before I got my answer.  Standing at the check-in counter was a tall, athletic, attractive blonde girl I'd never seen before.  I smiled to God and said, "Thank You!" and went to change clothes.  I was satisfied.

Here's the exact spot where I made that prayer, and the exact spot (through those double doors) where God answered it just a minute later:

Right as I started my workout, someone approached me from behind and asked for a spot.  It was that girl!  There were two or three other men nearby, but she asked ME!  My heart leapt as I followed her to a squat rack.  Over the next hour, we talked between sets and learned the basics about each other.  We had mutual friends.  She was from Greer but she was a college softball pitcher, home for Christmas break.  For the first and only time in my life, I asked someone I'd just met to go on a date.  She said yes, I got her number, and we went out a few times before she went back to school in January.

Within a few weeks, I was able to move on from my former girlfriend.  God gave me peace and hope for the future.  He showed me that not only could I LIVE without her, but that I could be HAPPY without her. I never looked back.

The new girl spent the next few months traveling all over the country with her team.  We talked and emailed and I went to a few of her games, but she was too busy for me.  I was just happy that God had used her to help me move on.  

And I did move on.  In February, I met with the youth ministry director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.  He gave me the names and addresses of 14 churches in our state that were looking for youth pastors.  I sent my resume to all of them and they started calling me, but a different church called him a couple weeks later and he gave them my name.  I met with THAT church on March 1, things went quickly, and I started my first full-time youth pastor position on April 4.  I spent 4.5 wonderful years there.

The softball pitcher went home to Greer in May.  My new home in Greenwood was about an hour from Greer, but we spent a lot of time together that summer.  I thought the relationship was going somewhere, but by the end of 1999, I accepted that we'd never be more than friends.  It didn’t matter: 1999 was the turning point of my life, one of the best years of my life.  None of it would have happened if I hadn't met her on December 14, 1998.

We're still friends 25 years later, but this is the first time she's ever heard about my desperate prayer in the parking lot of our gym, five minutes before we met.  

Monday, April 8, 2019



As followers of Jesus, His mission is our mission.  We do what He did.
John 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.
Luke 4:43  . . . “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”

The Great Commission:
Matthew 28:18-20  “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Paul said:
Acts 20:24  But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

People are dying daily without Jesus and they can’t believe in someone they don’t know about.
Romans 10:13-15
Romans 10:17  Yet faith comes from listening to this message of good news—the Good News about Christ.

God wants to save everyone:
1 Timothy 2:3-4  This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.
2 Peter 3:9  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think.  No, he is being patient for your sake.  He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.


1.  On a scale of 1-10, how much fun is it for YOU to share Jesus with others? __________
2.  Do you think it’s your RESPONSIBILITY to PURPOSEFULLY share Jesus with others? Yes    No
Why or why not? _______________________________________________________________
3.  How many times have you PURPOSEFULLY shared Jesus with someone?
Never    Once or Twice    A Few Times    Occasionally    Regularly
4.  If you don’t share Jesus with others often, why don’t you? ____________________________
5.  How long has it been since you PURPOSEFULLY shared Jesus with someone? _____________
6.  How often would you LIKE to share Jesus with someone? __________________________
7.  How prepared/equipped do you feel you are to share Jesus with others? ________________

8.  On a scale of 1-10, how observant are you about what’s going on in the world and IN THE WORLD AROUND YOU?   (Be honest.  Most people aren’t very observant of either.)
In the world - _________       In the world around you - ________


We have to know what’s going on around us to make a difference for Jesus. 
Identify the unbelievers in your life and list them by name. 
Determine their level of spiritual interest.  What is their FAITH SYSTEM?  Everybody has one. 
Recognize your common interests and build upon them. 

2.  PRAY
• Use your list and pray for the unbelievers in your life daily.
• Pray that God will give/show you an opportunity to share your faith story.
• Pray that God will give you wisdom for what to say.

3.  CARE
Be a friend.  Be a good listener.  Don’t discard someone because they reject Jesus or because they reject your attempt to share Jesus.

Generally, sharing the Gospel is an INTENTIONAL activity.  If we do it, we do it ON PURPOSE. 

1 Thessalonians 2:8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.
Christianity is RELATIONAL - concerning the way in which two or more people or things are connected.  Our lives impact the EFFECTIVENESS of our message.
SALVATION STATS are very revealing:
• Only 15% of Christians came to know Jesus because of an EVENT.  What’s an event?  A YOUTH RETREAT, Sunday worship, and friendship Sundays are all events. 
However, 85% of Christians came to know Jesus after hearing the Gospel an average of 7.6 times.  Usually, they heard the Gospel through a continual relationship with a Christian(s). 

Sharing our faith is offering JESUS to someone, not ourselves.  A WITNESS doesn’t make an offer to be accepted or rejected, he simply TELLS WHAT HE’S SEEN AND HEARD.

We can only talk INTELLIGENTLY about things we’re knowledgeable about.  If I love Jesus, I’ll have the desire to LEARN ALL ABOUT HIM – no matter the cost.
1 John 1:1-5

8.  GROW
If we love Jesus, we’ll learn more about Him - just like kids do their heroes.  Learning more about Him will result in SPIRITUAL GROWTH. 
What are some basic Christian disciplines in your life RIGHT NOW? ______________________

Integrity means honesty.
2 Timothy 2:15-16
Integrity doesn’t mean PERFECTION. 

Sharing the Gospel can be scary.
How do we overcome these fears?  We should ask God for courage and then SHARE OUR FAITH!  We get better at things by DOING THEM.
It also helps to look at things realistically.  WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH SOMEONE? _________________________­­­_________________
WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH SOMEONE? ____________________________________________________________________


A. Your Personal Testimony

2.  KEEP IT TO 3 MINUTES MAX.  Stay focused on the goal – sharing JESUS, not your story.  Shorter is better.  If someone cares to know more, they’ll ask.
3.  Don’t glorify in your pre-Christian sins.  Remember, you’re talking to a non-Christian who is currently enjoying some of those same things.  Don’t make those things the focus/hero.
4.  Use SIMPLE WORDS, not “Christian lingo.” 
5.  Be real about your continued struggles.


B.  The Five Key Questions 
This is a way to BEGIN talking to ANYBODY about the Gospel.  It’s non-confrontational and low-pressure because you’re not presenting facts that need to be judged: you’re just asking for an opinion.  Most people have opinions on EVERYTHING, even things they know nothing about. 
You can ask any or all of the questions, in any order:
1.  Do you have any kind of spiritual belief?
2.  To you, who is Jesus?
3.  Do you believe there is a heaven and a hell?
4.  If you die right now, where would you go?  If heaven, why?
5.  If what you believe were not true, would you want to know it?

C.  The Roman Road to Salvation
I’ve added a few extra verses for clarity.
John 3:3  Jesus replied, "I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God."
John 14:6 Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
Romans 3:23  For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.
We have all done things that are displeasing to God.  Nobody is innocent.

Romans 3:10-18  As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous – not even one.  11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.  12 All have turned away; all have become useless.  No one does good, not a single one.  13 Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.  Their tongues are filled with lies.  Snake venom drips from their lips.  14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.  15 They rush to commit murder.  16 Destruction and misery always follow them.  17 They don’t know where to find peace.  18 They have no fear of God at all.
Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The punishment that we have earned for our sins is death; not just physical death, but spiritual and eternal death.

Romans 5:8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price of our sins.

Romans 10:9  For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 5:1  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Romans 8:1  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:38-39  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Revelation 3:20 "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.

Helping A Person Choose Jesus
If you’re sharing with a person and they are obviously interested, give them a chance to surrender to Jesus. 

Here’s a version of “The Sinner’s Prayer” you can lead a person to pray:
“Dear God, I know that I’ve sinned against You and that I deserve punishment.  But on the cross, Jesus took the punishment that I deserve so that I can be forgiven.  I trust Jesus for my salvation.  I surrender my life to You, and I want to live my life for You.  Thank You for saving me.”

Part 4: Taking the Gospel to the World

From the International Mission Board, February 2017
7.29 billion people in the world.
4.23 billion - population of unreached people groups where Evangelical Christians comprise less than 2% of the population.
219 million - population of unreached people groups not engaged by anyone within Evangelical Christianity.

The area extends from 10 degrees to 40 degrees North of the equator, and stretches from North Africa across to China.
About 4.9 billion people live here in 8,213 distinct people groups.  5,626 of these people groups are considered unreached - a total of 3 billion people.

What can we do to assist the global missions effort?
We can accomplish a lot more as a group than as individuals, and as a group of churches than as an individual church.  The best way most individual Christians can make an impact is by supporting the missions agencies our church supports -,,, .

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Adoption Nazi

In 1995, the TV show Seinfeld had an episode called “The Soup Nazi.”  The owner of a soup restaurant demanded that his customers obey his strict ordering procedure, and if they failed, he yelled at them and said, “No soup for you!”

In 2011, as Kelley and I were going through the adoption process for the first time, I read a book on adoption by a nationally known Christian man.  As I read his book, he reminded me of “The Soup Nazi.”  He was very harsh toward people who asked him adoption questions that he felt were offensive.  In the years since, I’ve read a few other things, usually short articles, which essentially repeated the condescension of that book.  I read one this week, and that’s what triggered my memory of my 2011 “Soup Nazi” feelings.  So, I titled this little piece, “The Adoption Nazi.” 

Kelley and I have adopted two girls and have lived through adoption for the past seven plus years.  We’ve received ALL KINDS OF QUESTIONS about adoption, our experiences, our daughters’ stories, our reasons for adopting, etc.  But not a single time has anyone asked us a question with an attitude of disrespect or with intent to hurt us.  So, we just answer the questions as best as we can.  Our two adoptions only make us EXPERIENCED, not EXPERTS.  We’re experts on OUR story, but that’s it!  Our story isn’t like many other people’s story.

A lot has changed with adoption in my lifetime.  When I was in elementary school in the 1980’s, I knew one kid at school who was adopted.  His name was Anthony.  Everyone in our grade knew he was adopted, but we didn’t ask him any questions.  I also knew one family at our church that had adopted three boys.  One was a teenager when I knew him, and two were preschool age.  In time, that family wasn’t able to keep those two little boys.  I was too young to be told any details, so my whole adoption experience as a child was, “Don’t ask any questions.” 

The older you are, the more likely that your experience with adoption is even more different than people in my generation.  For those who are 70 or older, WOW has adoption changed!  That generation lived through times when a teenage girl they knew might “go out of town” for a few months.  In reality, that girl was pregnant and her parents shipped her off to live with a relative until she had given birth and placed the baby with an adoptive family.  A few months later, the girl returned home and went on with her life as best as she could.  And kept her pregnancy a secret – to save herself and her family from shame.

Kate is our oldest daughter.  Her birth mother was adopted, too, although their adoption stories are much different.  Kate’s birth mother was adopted out of a foreign country by an American family.  That country changed its adoption policies in the MIDDLE of the family’s adoption.  The process was long, intense, and the family wasn’t sure it was going to work until they got off a plane with their then 2-year old daughter in the USA.  Therefore, Kate’s birth mother’s father was a little uncomfortable with our OPEN adoption of Kate – his granddaughter.  It took him some time to overcome his hesitations and fears.  Even though he had adopted two children of his own, he STILL had questions for us.  Some of them weren’t easy to answer.

If you’ve experienced adoption from either side, and someone asks you a question that offends you, just show them some grace and remember that not everyone is as “adoption aware” as you are.  Then, KINDLY ANSWER THE QUESTION (to the degree that you feel is appropriate)!  You have a golden opportunity to share a part of your story and with someone!  How often do you get to tell people, sometimes STRANGERS, your most important stories?  Everyone with kids – biological, adopted, step, foster – gets asks uncomfortable questions about their kids from time to time.  Uncomfortable questions aren’t limited just to families of adoption.  So instead of acting rude, condescending, or using the opportunity to write a rant blog or even a rant book, just use it as an opportunity to do a little ADOPTION EDUCATION. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Freshman Security Blanket

Thirty years ago this fall (1987), I was a freshman at Franklin County High School in Carnesville, GA.  I had gone to school with the kids from my town since 2nd grade (1981), but kids from the three different towns in our county funneled to the same junior high and high school.  So 7th grade was almost like a new school, and 9th grade was even worse - because you didn’t know 2/3 of the 11th and 12th graders, and they were BIG!

I was a little kid my whole childhood, but by 9th grade, I was particularly little: about 5’3” and 110 lbs.  I was 14 but I looked 12, and I stayed that way for two more years.  I learned to keep my mouth shut, but as a quiet kid, that was easy.  I knew to avoid confrontations and to be friendly.  That was good enough 99% of the time.  But there WAS this one time it wasn’t good enough, in the fall of my freshman year.

Our school had about 1,300 students and two lunch shifts, so the lunch room was big and you can imagine the crowd from the numbers I just gave.  The room was a rectangle, and most of the time, the tables were lined up end to end running length-wise across the lunch room, so there were LONG rows of tables. 

I ate lunch with the same friends every day, but the only two I can remember are Jeff Wood and Robby Peterson.  After we ate, we went to the library for the rest of the lunch period to read Sports Illustrated, discuss college football or basketball, etc. 

One fall day at lunch, clearly too early in the school year for some people to figure out who I was, we were sitting at lunch in these long rows of tables by some 10th grade boys.  I didn’t know them but I remembered them from when I was in 7th grade and they were in 8th.  But they were bigger now.  And I was not.  I remember the boy’s name sitting to my left, but I won’t tell it.  As we were eating and talking, he suddenly grabbed my jacket collar and pulled my head right up next to his.  He threatened me and told me all the things he would do to me - and for what I still don’t know.  I imagine he was just showing off by picking on the smallest kid around.  When he let go, I leaned back and looked down the long row of tables to my right.  I was looking for my big brother. 

Keith was sitting in the same row as me, about 75 feet down, but at the table behind me.  I had seen him sit down earlier but I wanted to see if he was still there.  He was. 

I got up and my friends followed me.  I stopped at Keith’s chair and told him what just happened.  He saw the fear, and probably tears, in my eyes, and he got that enraged look in HIS eyes that I was familiar with.  He said just one word: “WHO???”  My finger, hand, and arm shook as I pointed out the guy and his friends.  They were easy to spot because they were still laughing.

Keith bolted out of his chair and I was scared he was about to get in trouble because of me.  I watched as he charged through that skinny row of chairs and backpacks.  He squatted down behind the guy and tightly put one arm around his neck and one arm around the neck of the guy sitting beside him, both of which had stopped laughing at this point.  He jerked them close, just like the guy had done to me.  I couldn’t hear a word of what he said, but I watched for a few seconds before heading to the library, and none of them made any kind of move.  I have a good idea of what Keith said to them and it wasn’t PG.  His language had always bothered me, but in that moment, I didn’t care what he said to them. 

A few minutes later, Keith came and found me in the library.  He said I wouldn’t have any more trouble out of them.  He just said, “I took care of it.”  And he did.  For the rest of that school year, that boy wouldn’t even look at me.  Any time I passed him in the halls, he looked away.  It was like I was the one who had threatened HIM, and in effect, I HAD.  He couldn’t mess with me unless he was willing to mess with my big brother, and he wasn’t willing to do that. 

Keith was an 18-year old senior, born in November, one of the older kids in the school.  He had no problem with confrontation.  After high school, he joined the Army.  He told me he was a “Tabbed out (Ranger) Airborne Infantryman.”  He participated in the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War during his four years, and later rejoined the Army and participated in the second Gulf War.  And he was my big brother during my freshman year of high school. 

Ninth grade was the “good ‘ole days” for me.  Not only was Keith not around for me in 10th grade, but my family moved to Portsmouth, VA: another new school, about the same size, and no security blanket.  I was all alone.  And to make matters worse, I was the new kid, the new, little kid with a very Southern accent.  As always, I kept my mouth shut, but when I was occasionally picked on, I had to deal with it on my own.  It made me miss and appreciate my big brother every time. 

My family moved again before that year was over, and I found myself in yet another new school, of similar size.  During 10th grade, I realized there was something physically wrong with me.  I still hadn’t grown a millimeter. 

I started seeing doctors in the spring of 1989, and on September 27, just after I started 11th grade, I was put on a testosterone regimen, which continues to this day.  I was sized for my class ring on September 18, 1989.  When we got the rings on January 24, 1990, just four months later, mine didn’t fit.  My finger had grown from size 8.5 to size 10.  And it wasn’t just my finger: I had grown 4-5 inches taller and about 45-50 pounds heavier.  It happened so quickly that, aside from needing bigger clothes, I didn’t think about it.  But as I looked back on those four months, I realized that I was no longer getting picked on.  Keith was no longer needed.  But he was still missed. 

I have 3 brothers, but our ages are spread out so that I was only in high school with any of them for a total of two years.  Keith is 4 years older than me, but I have an August birthday so I was the youngest kid in my class.  I’m just two years older than my next brother, Ken, but he has a September birthday, so he was an extra year behind me (and always the oldest kid in his class).  So he was a freshman when I was a senior.  And he was already bigger than me, so he didn’t need me as a security blanket.  By that time, we were both at least 5’10” and 170 pounds.  People left him alone.  But he missed out on something else: the comfort of knowing that your big brother is just a few chairs down the row.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Riding in the Car with My Wife and Two Kids

Kate is four and Karsten is one.  When my family drives somewhere, even just 10 minutes away, Kelley and I can’t speak a word to each other unless we yell.  

Karsten whines, cries, or starts saying CONTINUALLY, “ahh unh, ahh unh, ahh unh, ahh unh (brief pause) unh ahh, unh ahh, unh ahh, unh ahh.”  

Kate eventually gets tired of it, so she tries to drown Karsten out by LOUDLY singing OVER and OVER,

“There WAS a FARMER,
and BINGO was his NAME-O,
E-I-N-G-O, E-I-N-G-O . . .”

Kelley interrupts to say, “Kate, it’s B-i-n-g-o.  Buh Buh Buh –B!”

So Kate STARTS OVER and may or may not spell Bingo with a B the next of 10 times she sings the song.  We’ve told her plenty of times that it’s B-i-n-g-o, but I think she spells it wrong just to be annoying. 

Meanwhile, Kelley and I are still trying to talk so our volume has risen to about 9, and that’s when it SUDDENLY hits me that my HEAD is about to explode!  It doesn’t slowly build, IT HITS ME ALL AT ONCE.  You’d THINK I’d see it coming. 

I went 34 years without a wife and wondered if I’d EVER have children, so I should probably just smile when this stuff happens.  But smiling isn’t my first impulse!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fanatical Thanksgiving

Part of my sermon from this past week:

I've observed this over the years: People who are God-focused make people who are self-focused uncomfortable - believers and unbelieversThose who make God their priority and love Him with all they've got can't help but acknowledge Him CONTINUALLY.  They see God's hand in everything, and they accept their current situation in life as a divine calling

Other people, even some who claim to be Christians, call them a name they INTEND to be NEGATIVE and CRITICAL.  That name is FANATICS.  But look at the meaning of that word:

Fanatic - a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.

I hope you've been around a JESUS FREAK lately, someone who is FANATICAL about their Savior.  I hope it made you SMILE, but if it made you UNCOMFORTABLE, I hope you had to ask yourself, "I love Jesus, so why is this person's FANATICAL LOVE FOR JESUS MAKING ME SO UNCOMFORTABLE?"  I hope you saw that you had NO GOOD REASON for your feelings.  I hope God used that person to CONVICT you for your own second-rate devotion to Him.  And mostly, I hope you're ready to be FANATICAL about Jesus, too. 

If you're not FANATICAL about Jesus, WHY AREN'T YOU?  The Bible teaches that God is to be our SINGULAR PRIORITY, and His Kingdom is to be our FOCUS.  (Just to name a few references, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 22:34-40.)  That sounds fanatical to me!

This Thanksgiving, I hope you'll surrender yourself to God's calling, and become FANATICAL about WHO HE IS, HOW HE WORKS, and WHAT HE WANTS.  And that you'll celebrate our National Thanksgiving Day with true, genuine FANATICAL thanksgiving.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Mom the Teacher

Kathleen Virginia Casey Elders
July 4, 1950 - October 30, 2014

My mom, Mama, died at 2:55am last Thursday morning.  She found out in late July that she had cancer.  And that it was bad.  And that there was little hope of surviving it.  By the time she went to the doctor, what started as ovarian cancer had spread to other parts of her body, including her lungs, which is what ultimately took her so quickly from the time of her diagnosis.

I won't go into the details of the last 22 years of my mom's life here.  She and my dad divorced in 1992-3 when I was 19 years old.  Here's what I primarily tell people about my mom: She taught her four sons to know and love Jesus.  She was faithful and obedient to the highest call God gives mothers.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8  "Listen, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength  6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today  7 Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

She taught us, as well as countless other children at Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Lavonia, GA, many things I used to take for granted.  Back then, as a traditional Southern Baptist Church, we went to church on Sunday mornings at 10am for Sunday School, 11am for worship, and then again at 6pm for Discipleship Training, and 7pm for worship.  Yep, we spent 4 hours at church every Sunday, and I never thought it was too much.  For several years of my childhood, Mama was my Discipleship Training teacher.  During those classes, I learned the 39 Books of the Old Testament, the 27 Books of the New Testament, the Ten Commandments, the Eight Beatitudes, and the Twelve Disciples.  I remember her teaching us the Books of the Bible 5 at a time: "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.  Again - Genesis, Exodus . . ."  She taught us the Twelve Disciples 4 at a time: "Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. Again - Andrew, Simon Peter . . ."  I don't know why she started with Andrew when Scripture starts with Simon Peter, but that's still the way I say them - Andrew first.

As for the Books of the Bible, it helped that my church also did the "Bible Drill," where students stand holding their closed Bible in front of them, and the teacher calls out a Bible verse.  The first person to find it steps forward and reads it.  I loved the competition.

As I said, I used to take all those lists for granted.  I thought it was normal for every Christian to know them.  I learned otherwise as I grew up.  When I took my first youth ministry position and started teaching students regularly, I saw that most church kids not only don't KNOW the Books of the Bible, but they aren't even FAMILIAR with them.  That was in 1997, and since then, at every church I've served, I've had a standing deal with my youth: the first one to come to me and recite all 66 Books of the Bible will receive SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY (it has changed through the years).  To this day, nobody has ever done it.  Learning 66 things in order isn't impossible, so the reason has been that nobody has CARED to do it.  I'm glad my mom taught me before I reached an age that I didn't care.

Then I had another eye-opener.  At Erskine Theological Seminary, one of the schools I attended for my Masters, I had to take a Bible Survey course.  It was a semester-long overview of the entire Bible.  I loved it, while most students didn't.  Why did I love it?  Because I already knew a lot of the stuff we were tested on, and I made an easy A.  Other students spent long hours trying to memorize all the things I learned as a child.  During tests, I was always the first student finished.  It was honestly the first and last class in my seminary education that I felt was remedial.  When my friends in the class asked me how I knew all that stuff so easily, I told them about my mom.  I was shocked that so many pastors and pastors-to-be didn't know these BASICS.

Aside from the lists, Mama taught my brothers and me what it means to know who God is, how He works, and what He wants.  She made Bible stories come to life, and I can still remember the characters she drew and cut out to use on her flannel board to teach us Biblical truths.  I'm trying to pass on what I learned from her to my 3-year old, and in the future, to our 1-month old.  I cared that she taught us all those things way back then, but the older I get, the more I care and the more it means to me.  Especially this week.