Monday, June 17, 2013
I used to crave more "zing" in my life. As a child, I was never satisfied. As a young boy, I strived to be the best at everything. As a young man, I made good money, and despite some mistakes along the way, turned out successful by the world's standards. After a few more mistakes, I lost it all. I am beginning to understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12)." When he says, "I have learned the secret," the literal rendering in the Greek is, "I have been initiated."
In my freshman year of college, I pledged a fraternity for band geeks like myself. There was an "initiation" period during which if a "brother" asked you a question and you flubbed the answer, you had to write the Greek alphabet 1,000 times or some other such punishment. If you failed to call them "brother" or "sir" during the initiation period, the punishment was more intense. I decided not to pledge after all. I felt that between a full load of classes, band practice, and football games, I had enough on my plate. Those who passed the initiation had the privilege of becoming full-fledged brothers of the fraternity, with lifelong benefits.
Paul passed his initiation by accepting Jesus Christ as his savior and Lord. When his mission to the gentiles was clear, nothing stood in the way of his sharing the gospel. Poverty or wealth are irrelevant when one is compelled by grace and purpose in sharing the gospel with the world.
Today I got a call from a long time friend. He is involved in a home business that has been very lucrative for him, and he wants me to be a part of it. It is multilevel marketing. Twenty years ago, I'd have jumped right in. The potential to make a fortune versus making a living used to appeal to me. I read Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, as well as many other "how-to-get-wealthy" books. I had a dream of being wealthy and never worrying about money again. I just don't feel that way anymore. I don't care about getting rich anymore. If I were wealthy, though, I would give more away than I would spend on myself. At least I hope I would...
My desires are simpler now. I just want to be the best husband, Dad, pastor, teacher, and writer I can be. Even if it doesn't make me rich, that is all I want. I don't need a boat or a vacation home. I need the love of my wife and children. I need my students to be impacted by my example. I need my church to be a hospital for sinners. I need Jesus to be glorified and magnified in my life. I need Jesus to increase, and I must decrease.
I realize how trifle and cliche' this sounds. Unlike so many of my peers, I no longer wish to become SBC President or grow the largest church in the world. I don't need a TV ministry. I don't need my name on the marquis and I don't care if I get paid or not. I used to want all of those things. I honestly don't anymore. I am really just thankful to have a loving wife and family and a pulpit of my own.
Maybe, like Paul, I have been initiated. I regret that I have been a slower study than the great Apostle, but I have found the ability to be content no matter what, and I like it.
All that rambling, and I still have no decent title. Sigh...
Saturday, June 15, 2013
My biological father abandoned us when I was about 12 years old. We didn't see or hear from him for many years. To this day, I really don't know why. He never told me. I never asked. It was what it was. The last time I saw him was in January 1992. We had a nice visit and took lots of pictures. 35 days later, he was killed in a freak car accident. Whatever explanation I would get from him went to the grave. I fell into a deep depression.
All my life, I defined myself by the failure of my father to be what he was supposed to be. On August 17, 1993, all of that changed. My son was born. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. I was a Dad. Now I had the chance to be to my son what my father wasn't for me. I have four children now, and they are all grown and going to college. I adore each of them. I wasn't always perfect, but I love them and I know they love me.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this I had a rather humbling awakening. I was never fatherless. I mean, I know my Heavenly Father has always been there. But I am talking about Jerry. Jerry has been with my Mom since I was 9 years old. He is technically my stepfather. The truth is, he has been more of a Dad to me than any man on the face of this earth. He has always been there for me. He loves me even when I am not at my best. He accepts me no matter what. He loves me like a father loves a son. He is one of the sweetest, most genuine people I know. He is also very intelligent; he can converse about anything! Most of all, he loves the Lord Jesus and he has loved my Mom for all of these years.
So I would like to offer this meager tome as a dedication to Jerry Shealy, my Dad. I love you with all my heart and I always will!
I am so very blessed. I have a Dad.