A perfect Sunday. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Praying with Jim Gardner in the hour of calm and peace before the morning assembly. Maybe the thing I miss the most about working with Jim is our prayer time together. Those early Sunday morning times with God and Jim were always such blessings. To pray for each other as we prepared to preach or teach or lead the singing each Sunday always seemed so critical. It was so important. It always filled me with so much confidence and courage. My faithful brothers Paul and Mike fill that role with me now here at Legacy. They bless me with their presence and their encouragement and their prayers every Sunday. Praying with Jim yesterday at Woodward Park was special.
I preached on the parables of Luke 15. A young man named Evan was baptized. His father told me afterwards that it was due, in large part, to the sermon I had preached there Saturday night on God’s promises. I tied the strange and obscure blood path ceremony story in Genesis 15 to the crucifixion of Jesus. God made a covenant with his people and then stood in their (our) place and took their (our) punishment for them (us) when they (we) broke that covenant agreement. Our God loves us that much. He’s that committed to us. I don’t care how many books are written about the death of Jesus. I don’t care how many great poets and authors and songwriters put pen to paper. There are no words to describe the power of the picture of the blood of Almighty God dripping into the dust—just like he promised—to pay for my sins. It moved Evan. It still moves me.
Following the morning assembly, Jim and I walked into the Laotian meeting where a hundred or so Laotian brothers and sisters had gathered to worship. We walked in while they were singing How Great Thou Art. One of my all time favorite Christian hymns. It’s a funeral song for me, right? You know what I’m talking about. We sang it at my grandmother’s funeral eight years ago. And so now everytime I hear it or sing it, I think of her. So there’s added weight and emotion there for me. And these beautiful brothers and sisters from the other side of the world are praising our God with this wonderful song. And I’m so blessed to be there. And humbled. They sang He Leadeth Me. Of course, the tunes are ultra-obvious. I know the songs. I’ve known them my entire life. But I can’t sing with them. It’s a different language. I can only listen. And hum. It sounds so wildly different. And yet so amazingly familiar. Comforting. Inspiring.
They introduced Jim and me to their congregation. We stood and bowed toward their church family with our hands together in front of our faces. And they smiled at us and nodded. Then we sang (hummed) Amazing Grace. And then we shared communion. Together. Same table. Same loaf. Same cup.
It was heaven. It IS heaven!
“This IS heaven!” I thought as we communed together, in perfect community, unified by the blood of our common Savior.
But we had to leave to catch my 12:50 flight out of Fresno. So Jim and I hustled through the Bible classrooms to round up Trae and Tori for the trip to the airport. And I saw the exact same thing in the 4th grade room and in the 4-year-old room: red and yellow, black and white. Or, as Helen Dobbs would say, “Red and yellow, blackbrownandwhite!” They were all there. White. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Rich. Poor. No barriers. No segregation. No walls. No borders. The Kingdom of God. His rule. His dominion. Heaven on earth.
I landed at DFW at 6:00. And there were all my girls waiting for me at the baggage claim. Hugs and kisses all around. And then more hugs and kisses. Wow, I missed them. Big time. We went straight to Posado’s to eat Tex-Mex. They don’t have Tex-Mex in California. The Mexican food they have there is real Mexican. Real bland. No flavor. So dinner was excellent last night.
Whitney had DVRd the Cowboys-Redskins game so we could watch it last night. It’s funny, isn’t it, to use DVR as a verb? We had gone to great lengths to avoid all TVs and radios and conversations that could have given us clues as to the outcome of the game. Nothing in the airport. Nothing at the restaurant. Although, a family of four wearing Romo jerseys and blue face paint came into the restuarant with sad frowns prompting us to believe Washington had won. But I reminded us all that a full-day at Texas Stadium with all the kids would be enough alone to put those looks on those faces. The Cowboys could have won a dramatic thriller and those parents and kids would still look that way. But then Steve Croft, an avid Redskins fan, called our house at 8:15 or so and asked to speak to Whitney. I told him we didn’t know anything about the game, that were watching it on DVR and were only in the first quarter. So he apologized and hung up. But it was too late. Why would Steve call Whitney unless the Redskins had won? We knew.
Washington wins. Whitney’s faith in her Cowboys hung true right up to the point at which the onside kick attempt bounced off Sam Hurd’s fingers.
What a perfect day. Tank Johnson’s name was never called. Pacman Jones didn’t make a single play. And T.O.’s telling reporters he’s not getting the ball enough. Perfect.
Lorie, we went to In-N-Out Saturday afternoon. I’m hooked. Jerry, it’s as good—maybe even a little better—as Kincaide’s, the burger that changed my life. Is it garlic? What’s in the meat? It’s more than just that sauce. And, as directed by Steve and Mandy, I ordered my fries to be “animal-ed.” Piles of melted cheese and grilled onions and that sauce right on top. Wow. If they ever open an In-And-Out here in DFW, I’ll be like Gardner and his new Fresno Chick-Fil-A: Unbearable.
Tonia and Paul and Carol and David! I finally read “Same Kind of Different As Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. I read it on the flight to California Wednesday. And I cried the whole way. Out loud. Sniffing and sobbing and blubbering like a middle-aged woman watching Steel Magnolias. As the passengers within three rows all the way around kept looking at me I thought of David Watson who suffered a similar meltdown while reading this wonderful book two weeks ago on a flight to Chicago.
If you’ve read it, you can relate. If you haven’t, I’m not going to spoil it for you. I’ll just recommend it to you as excellent reading. It’s a local story from right here in Fort Worth. And it’s a true story. You know it’s a true story when, on page 18, the authors joke that “the only heavy industry in Haltom City was the three-hundred-pound Avon lady.”
I’m about three-quarters of the way through “The Shack” by William P. Young. Very interesting. VERY interesting. Theological reflection on the God-Head-Three as the Triune Community. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit living in divine community and our call to live into that community. The question of human suffering. The concept of mutual submission. The problems with judging others and judging God. A very good book. Not life-changing. It hasn’t rocked my world. But it challenges and affirms—at the same time—my beliefs and practices and worldview.
The Cowboys gave up 161 yards on the ground. They gave up 220 yards passing. I think Terrance Newman gave up 190 of that by himself. The Redskins outmuscled Dallas up and down the field. Jason Campbell made big time plays, stepping up in the pocket time and time again, fighting through would-be sackers to make big throws. Smoot and Rogers and Springs shut Terrell Owens out in the first half. They punched him in the lip and watched him cry. Embarassing. And when the Cowboys started forcing things to Owens in an effort to cheer him up and keep him happy, it severely limited their offensive options and their ability to come back. Barber gets only eight total carries? Felix Jones gets none? All to keep T.O. happy. They go to Owens 19 times in 58 offensive plays, and he’s still pouting after the game. Give me a break. Remind me, why is it y’all cheer for him?
In fairness to Owens, he was set up by the reporter who asked him if he thought he got the ball enough in yesterday’s loss. What else is T.O. going to say? Of course he’s going to say he wants the ball even more. Of course he’s going to say there were opportunities that Romo missed. Of course he’s going to say that when he gets the ball they move the chain and when he doesn’t get the ball they stagnate. Of course. When Romo was told of Owens’ postgame comments, Romo asked reporters, “What were his stats?”
If Jason Garrett is as concerned with Owens getting his stats as Romo, that might explain Barber’s eight carries. And the loss.
Pat Watkins was the 12th man on the field there at the end of the game that allowed the Redskins to continue the drive that culminated in that last nail-in-the-coffin field goal that sealed the Cowboys’ fate. How do you commit that penalty coming out of a timeout? Inexcusable.
Lots of questions today. The NFC East is truly up for grabs.
Loving on the Dobbs comment!!! Just laughing out loud. I missed In-N-Out. How could that be?!? I miss the whole Gardner house crew already. Stanglin, Wiegand , Mitchell and the Gardners all under one roof. How did we ever make it out alive?
I have recently read both books. I think ‘The Shack’ spoke to me more than ‘Same Kind of Different as Me’.
That could because of the events in my life in the past 13 months.
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning to dance in the rain”
Wow. Paul, I’ve been thinking about you from page one of “The Shack.” The main character’s name makes it obvious. But the circumstances make it real. I’ve wondered if it would be appropriate to even recommend the book to you. I’ve been afraid it would be too painful. I’m super glad you’re reading it. It reminds me of Habakkuk. And C. S. Lewis. I hope it’s giving you some peace and comfort. God bless you and Jean, brother.