do i have what it takes?

“I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God's word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one.” – 1 John 2:14

 

One of the best parts of my job is working with young men. Many have graduated from school and are beginning their careers. Culture refers to this age group as millennials, but I don’t.

The stereotype doesn’t fit the young men I know. Many of my friends invested in the lives of high school kids while they were in college, and some still are, while they work their first job. Some have traveled to Haiti and Costa Rica with me, to share their faith with others.

Michael sharing his faith with a young man in Haiti.

Michael sharing his faith with a young man in Haiti.

I’ve listened to them, as they seek to understand how God’s Word applies to their lives and work to reconcile His unfailing love with the injustices of our world. There are common themes to our conversations.

Mark & John, took time from their jobs, to lead & love kids at our camp in Colorado last June.

Mark & John, took time from their jobs, to lead & love kids at our camp in Colorado last June.

Like men my age once wondered, these young men want to know if they have what it takes. It’s a question every man faces. Do I have what it takes?

Ambition may take us down a fast path at work, as we press to not just be in the big meeting, but be one leading it. Only when we find ourselves leading others, we begin to experience the question at a deeper level. Yes, I’ve found enough success to lead, but can I lead these people through our next crisis? Do I have what it takes??

If we answer this question at work, achieving greater success than expected, then the question may haunt us at home.

Do I have what it takes to be the husband my wife deserves? Sure, I sold her on the idea of me, but do I have the strength and ability to actually be the man of her dreams?

Is it possible for me to be the dad our little ones need? Will I be wise enough in making and saving money to provide for them?

As an older guy, with mostly highway miles, let me answer. Yes, you have what it takes.

We hear of a soldier’s daring rescue or read a story about a young warrior protecting his remote village from a lion, and we wonder. Am I that brave, and capable?

The Lord didn’t short you. He has given you everything you need.

”The Lord is my Shepherd. I have all that I need.” – David, Psalm 23:1

In His infinite wisdom, The Lord made you for perfectly, for this time, this season and the challenges you will face.

There’s not a man around who faces big events without butterflies. Holding your child for the first time should take your breath away. Walking into a high-stakes sales meeting, purchasing your first house or taking a leap of faith should give you pause. Anxiety, worry and doubt are okay, as long as we let them take us to The Lord.

Mark, Bradley & Andy leading kids on an adventure, up the mountain in Colorado.

Mark, Bradley & Andy leading kids on an adventure, up the mountain in Colorado.

By trusting our lives to Christ, we have come into His family and become His sons. His heirs.

Mature men in the faith, do you recall your first of many life experiences? Let me encourage you to share it with your sons and a few young men in your church, or at your office.

They need the benefit of your experience. You need their questions and concerns. It will drive you deeper in your faith and force you to become the mature believer God made you to be. There’s so much life in giving your life away to younger men.

Davis & Patrick guiding kids across a snow field up to an incredible mountain waterfall.

Davis & Patrick guiding kids across a snow field up to an incredible mountain waterfall.

Young men, we know from Ephesians 1:18-21 the same great power that raised Christ from the dead is resident in you, as a believer. If God is for you, who can be against you?

The birth of my son overwhelmed me. I knew my desire to be a great dad, and my capacities were two different things at that time.  The challenge drove me to God’s Word, where I found wisdom, hope, promises and courage. And I also found Him. Go to Jesus and His Word.

Meet with an older brother. Share your heart. Let him encourage you.

Remember, God who made you has given you everything you need, to do all He has called you to do. You have what it takes.

My friends took me to a UT - Baylor game. Their team won & they described it as "a beautiful day." My team lost, but sharing the day with them made it a great day for me, too.

My friends took me to a UT - Baylor game. Their team won & they described it as "a beautiful day." My team lost, but sharing the day with them made it a great day for me, too.

 

 

 

How to Rebuke Your Pastor

It happened again this weekend.

The moment I finished my message after one of our services I was approached by a woman who immediately started talking to me. She had taken issue with much of what I taught and wanted to correct me for my faulty teaching.

There is nothing wrong with this woman’s motives. Pastors are quite capable of saying things from the pulpit that are far from accurate. We’re not perfect, and sometimes our imperfections show up in our preaching.

Pastors need godly people–men, women, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, friends and well-meaning church members–to hold us accountable and make sure we accurately handle the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15).

But like everything else in ministry, how you get something done is as important as getting it done. In other words, the means are as important as the ends.

So before you approach your pastor with a well-intended correction, here are some things you can know are true about him:

  • He’s given the message his best effort. Most pastors take very seriously the assignments of preaching and teaching. They know full well that they are accountable to God for what they teach. Assume your pastor worked hard on his message and delivered it as well and accurately as he could.
  • He’s exhausted. Leading a church service is exhausting work. Beyond the emotional and physical toll of the act of preaching, your pastor is “on” from the moment he drives on the property till the moment he leaves it. He’s greeting guests, rallying volunteers, trouble-shooting problems, praying with the needy, listening to suggestions, leading people to Jesus and doing any number of other things that are required of him on a Sunday. So if you approach him after a message, he may not be in the best condition to hear you.
  • He’s vulnerable. Preaching is humbling work. It can leave you feeling beaten down and broken. The emotions I battle most when preaching are fear and shame, and I’ve been preaching since 1980. I still deal with them. You can assume that the moment your pastor steps out of the pulpit or off the stage is the moment he is most vulnerable and open to Satanic attack. So even your best intentions in addressing your pastor may be twisted by the enemy to damage rather than help him.

rsz_nature-land_f1bdivtd

Some of my most difficult conversations with church members have come right after services. I would say that they actually accosted me or came accusing rather than coming to help and encourage. And when you mix in the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue that I was feeling after the message, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Each of those conversations ended up damaging the relationship I had with the people who approached me. What’s sad is that the damage could have easily been avoided.

So, having said all that, here are some suggestions for approaching your pastor with a correction, suggestion or even a rebuke.

  1. Pray before you go. Ask God to season your words with salt and to help you to speak the truth in love. Pray for wisdom as you speak.
  2. Seek to edify and build up your pastor (Eph 4:29). If your goal isn’t to strengthen and help him, even if you need to say difficult things, then you have no business approaching him.
  3.  Check your motives. Do you want your pastor to be able to hear you and receive what you say? Or do you just need to get something off your chest? If you really want your pastor to hear your heart and motives, then I can guarantee you that Sunday after a sermon is the least effective time to approach him.
  4. Wait 48 hours. There are a lot of “Monday Issues” that we try to resolve on Sunday. Monday Issues can wait until Monday. Tuesday is even better. You don’t need to correct your pastor’s theology on Sunday. It can wait. It’s not going anywhere. Wait until Tuesday. The time will help you better prepare your words and clarify what you want to correct in your pastor.
  5. Ask permission to “go there”.  When you approach your pastor, give him a heads-up that you need to create a little chaos. I really appreciate it when people do this. It gives me the opportunity to humble myself and pray for a teachable spirit. When someone approaches me and says, “Can we talk about something you said in your message,” I’m typically eager to hear them.

I have learned some great lessons and become a better person and pastor by the corrections, suggestions and even rebukes offered in love. I really appreciate them. I can also say that some of the worst hurts I’ve experienced in ministry have come through the medium of poorly delivered correction.

Remember, how you deliver your message is everything.

I wish I could tell you my conversation with the woman on Sunday ended well, but it didn’t. I really didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me and she clearly left knowing I hadn’t heard her. There were too many people around, too much noise, too many other people waiting to talk to me, and I had too little to offer her.

And that’s a normal setting in a church after a message. Please keep that in mind.

 

Where’s Will?

Hello friends,

Several of you have written to ask why I haven’t posted anything this year. I appreciate the concern and thought I’d write with a brief update.

Since my dad died on December 12, I haven’t been able to write. I have many ideas that I’d like to write about, but I simply can’t yet muster the energy to do so. Beyond that, I’ve buried three other close friends or relatives (including my sister’s husband) this year. It’s been quite a run.

For me, writing is a pretty heavy investment of emotional energy. And I have to admit that my reserves are a bit low.

I don’t expect to be here indefinitely, and I’m praying about when to resume blogging. Hopefully it will be soon.

Blessings, Will Davis Jr.

Luis, oranges, Jimmy & Jesus Calling

After a long weekend of camp in Costa Rica, some on our team left for home, and some were ready to relax. They had worked hard, talking to teens, teaching, leading music, performing skits, washing dishes, and making camp fun.

We decided to see some waterfalls on the other side of San Jose. We were with our dear friends, Jimmy and Jeannie Hampton.

They work with Young Life, in the International Schools, in San Jose, Costa Rica. The Hamptons helped start Wyldlife in our community, and were key in building the YL area known as The Hills. Now The LORD has them building a new YL community.

Jimmy led us across San Jose to the place. We finally arrived in a parking lot; with a trail to falls we could faintly hear.

As we got out, we met Luis, a kind and mild-mannered man. He told us we could explore the park for no charge, but maybe we could buy some oranges from him on the way out. We happily agreed.

We hiked through a jungle for 10-15 minutes, and arrived at breathtaking scene. We climbed through the river to swim in the pool at the base of the falls.

The river fell 100-120 feet to the pool we stood in. It was powerful, gorgeous and so refreshing. After lunch, we slowly hiked back to the car…satisfied.

Luis’ home was on the roadout of the park. He was waiting. We pulled over to buy some oranges, or so we thought.

He invited us to see incredible vistas at the back of his property. Jimmy told me it would only take a couple ofminutes. I laughed, knowing it would be at least a 30-minute diversion, and we followed Luis down a dusty road.

The vistas from his property were incredible. We took pictures, hardly believing the beauty of his land while Jimmy talked to Luis.

Jimmy learned he has a couple of children, and a young wife. She recently left him. Luis was struggling.

He missed his wife. She had gotten involved in some things Luis couldn’t support. He wanted her to stop, but ultimately she chose those things over her family.

Luis asked us to pray for him.

On a hill in Costa Rica, in the middle of nowhere, 7 of us circled up to pray for Luis. We asked God to change his wife’s heart and bring her home.

While we prayed, I sensed Jesus wanted me to share something I’d read with Luis. I told him how much God loves him; that he is one of our Father’s beloved children. The LORD unexpectedly used us to minister to our new favorite orange salesman.

Luis told me he reads “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young (he pronounces her name ‘Jung' – way better than how I say it). I pulled it up in my Kindle app and he got excited, “si, si – Sarah Jung.”

On the way out, he stopped at his house, showing us his Bible ( a children’s Bible) and his copy of “Jesus te llama”.

To a person, we knew Jesus brought us to those falls, to love and encourage Luis. We left full, thankful for the chance to know Luis, and pray for him.

“those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:25

I wonder about Luis? What did he think when we left? What was he reading that morning, before we showed up, low on hope?

Since I know he reads Jesus Calling, I know he read this: “Continue on this path with me, enjoying My Presence even in adversity…The One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand.”

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, some gringos showed up, bought oranges, talked with him, and prayed for him. I think we left him with greater hope, knowing he is on the path with The LORD.

I wonder, how many more Luis are out there, at the end of their rope, looking for a whisper from the LORD? When God uses us, it’s humbling…but beautiful.

Seeing Jesus touch a man selling oranges in a remote orchard in Costa Rica, is more beautiful than the falls or vistas we took in that day. Considering what I saw Jesus do through us, I want to be ready, and available, to be used in an unlikely way today.

“My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness, and love.” – Acts 20:24

“My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness, and love.” – Acts 20:24

looking up & pressing in

Four days in to a five-day prayer retreat, all was well. Last week I spent 5 days with some of the folks I work with, praying for our church and church communities.

Time had flown by; being with people I care about, admire and am fortunate to work alongside. We discussed significant struggles, prayed for one another and seemed to be making progress.

The fourth morning, things took a turn.

Unexpectedly, I had the disturbing sense of feeling different than everyone else in the room. I felt like they were pushing for something greater, and I wasn’t. I heard them pray, but nothing connected with me. I was out of synch with them, and I became discouraged. Pretty quickly, I wanted to leave.

Keep in mind, I love these people, and enjoy working with them. Yet, I slipped into a very lonely, and frustrated place.

I knew better than what I was thinking, but I thought the worst anyway. Though I didn’t know it, others in the room were also feeling discouraged and isolated.

In hindsight, it’s clear the enemy came after us. After 3+ days of unity, great fellowship and an encouraging retreat, we were experiencing opposition.

At our break, I went downstairs to get away from the group. I wanted to process the morning.

I called Celia, and she knew what I was feeling wasn’t right. She encouraged me by listening and telling me it was an attack. But still, I was struggling. I sat in a chair, looking out the window at this incredibly beautiful snowstorm, and asked God for help.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

Here’s what I experienced next:

·      As alone as I felt, I knew my Heavenly Father was with me.

·      I love to see wildlife in nature. While sitting downstairs, this little herd of mule deer came up on my left and walked all the way across to my right. I’d seen these deer earlier in the week, but never this close. One even came right up to my window. I felt like God sent the small mule deer by my window to remind me He saw me, and was with me.

·      Back upstairs, I realized I wasn’t the only one struggling. We processed where we were and talked about how we should spend the balance of our day.

·      Will led us into a time of affirmation, thinking it might take a few hours. Instead, as we affirmed one another, The Lord showed up. It took over 10 hours, ending after midnight on our final day in the mountains.

·      Each one of us took a turn in the chair, while our co-workers told us “the thing(s) they’d want us to know, if this was their last chance to talk with us.” As we loved one another, break through came flooding in.

·      All of the weirdness, isolation, and frustration I’d felt earlier, blew away. As I listened to my friends affirm one another, my discouragement was replaced by this incredible blessing of gratitude and love for our team.

Here’s what I learned:

·      When I struggle and feel alone, I am not alone. His Word promises He is always with me, so I need to look to Him. "Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces." - Psalm 34:5

·      God encourages us with little things, like a herd of deer coming to your window in a snowstorm.

·      If we quit in the face of opposition, we might miss an incredible opportunity to see The Lord move.

·      When we choose to love one another, like our group did that afternoon and night, the enemy is powerless in his attacks against us. Love covers a bunch. "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony." - Colossians 3:14

·      Experiencing the Presence of Christ in the body of Christ is powerful; a taste of what’s to come.

Finally, let me encourage you, during our 40 days of prayer and fasting to join with others and pray together for big things. Meet together, love and affirm one another. It is a powerful example of the kind of love and unity Jesus desires for us to experience.

 

 

 

 

falling snow

"The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.” – Isaiah 55:10

This past week I was granted the awesome privilege to be in Estes Park, with my co-workers, praying for our church and church communities. While we there, it snowed.

As I sat in the majestic mountains and the snow began to fall, The Lord spoke to me. This huge amount of snow, fell all day long. Without a sound or even much of a breeze, snow kept falling, covering the trees, mountains, and animals around us.

I saw how gentle our Father is. Slowly, silently He began speaking. As long as I was willing to listen, He kept speaking.

Hour after hour, this beautiful, peaceful snow covered every part of the landscape. I began to know more deeply, I can trust God to cover every one of my needs.

Slowing down allowed me to absorb His Presence. Surrounded by mountains way bigger than me, and a huge amount of snow, I gained a greater sense of how awesome His Presence is. With the snow falling, my heart was stilled and my soul was fed.

The dry mountain landscape looked brown and bleak when we arrived. The Lord quietly covered every patch of brown grass with a thick blanket of fresh, white snow. Watching this, I was reminded He covers all of our worries, fears, mistakes and struggles with His perfect love.

Others moving around Estes Park didn’t necessarily hear what I was hearing. Yet, the snow gently, but persistently fell. So it is with our Father; He gently and persistently pursues our hearts.

God didn’t raise His voice in thunder or unleash a vicious wind to steal our attention. He just quietly laid out a beautiful blanket of snow.

snowy trees.JPG

When the summer heat comes, this snow will melt, trickling to brooks, on the way to creeks and rivers. Ultimately, this snow will become the water supply for people in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Think of it; people who might deny God exists, either because they don’t care, have been hurt or genuinely cannot see His hand in Creation will receive water to sustain them, from this snowfall.

Could our Father be any more patient, gracious or merciful than to provide for our needs, while allowing us to sort out our feelings about Him? Just as the sun will deliver this blessing, so God waits for circumstances or time to bring people to Him.

How about you?

“Have you visited the treasures of snow?” – Job 38:22

Let me encourage you to take some time, a morning, or an afternoon to sit some place you like, in His Creation, with Him. We have incredible vistas all around us, waiting for us to slow down and watch a sunrise or sunset, with our Father.

I’m convinced He will speak to you, as you slow down to consider Him. I am also sure, as God speaks, you will sense His peace and know He dearly loves you, right now, exactly as you are.

An afternoon on Nymph Lake with my friends.

An afternoon on Nymph Lake with my friends.

eye on the ball

Keep your eye on the ball. Ever play a sport that required you to keep your eye fixed on a ball? Remember your coach reminding you over and over?

Leroy is a Labrador retriever. Retrievers…retrieve.

A playful 9 year-old dog, totally willing to lie around all day, changes his entire attitude when presented with a ball. Look at the picture; if anyone knows how to keep his eye on the ball, it’s Leroy.

His focus goes razor sharp. He sits at attention, shakes with anticipation, waiting for me to throw his ball. And then, he’s off like a shot chasing his ball, full speed with complete abandonment.

He’ll run, until he’s worn out. I have to stop or he would retrieve until he collapsed.

There’s no doubt, wondering or confusion by Leroy about who he is, or what he was made to do. He was made to retrieve. 

How about you?

What has God made you to do, that no one else can do? What personality traits, friendships, resources, passions, time and space has The LORD granted to you alone? Who do you have access to that no one else has access to?

Often we think of a calling as a big, future assignment for some people. This morning, I listened to Jill Briscoe’s recorded message from If: 2017 and was impressed by two things she shared. God has used her since she gave her life to Him from the age of 18, until now, at 82.

One thing she said was we all have a calling, and our calling is “the space between your feet.” Wherever we currently stand is the place God will use us. God will use you and I in the place He has us, right now. We only need to share what we know of Him when given the opportunity.

We’re prone to think nothing really counts unless it’s monumental. If Jesus focused on His work with 12, what is it in us that causes us to feel like if its small, it doesn’t count? Why do we struggle to trust God with the significance of little assignments?

Her words were a good reminder, to not look for some great, glamorous calling, but to be obedient right where we are today.

The other thing she said which stuck with me, was for us to pick up our cross and carry it, all the way home to Jesus. No breaks.

She’s in her 80s, and was recently on a mission trip in India. At the end of her trip, she was done. Tired and ready to go home, to rest. That’s fair, right?

Well, Jill Briscoe felt The LORD asking her to carry her cross all the way home. She knew Jesus was asking her to not give up, but to be available for whatever He asked her to do next.

If our Savior carried His cross to His death, and our older sister in the faith is called to carry her cross into her 80s, what makes us think we will accomplish some Kingdom things and then, be done?

I’m not saying we don’t get rest, but I am saying as long as we’re drawing breath, we’re to be serving our Lord. That’s kind of what Lordship is all about, right?

Which brings me back to Leroy and makes me wonder, what is it God has made you and I to do? He retrieves; that’s his deal. What’s your deal?

God made you and I, to be in a relationship with us and know us in a very personal way. He made each one of us to do some things no one else can do. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and do those things.

“Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

why we worship with kids

This week is Family Worship week at ACF. Julie Washington shared this blog by Kyleb with me, from ParentingThoughts.com. It's why we worship with kids.

I was about to give up and take her back downstairs.  Our church has recently made a significant shift to inviting families to worship together.  I had no other options for my elementary child, but the Pre-K still had childcare downstairs and the constant movement, bouncing, distractions…were about to push me over the edge.  If she puts that Moses finger puppet in my face one more time…

One parent shares it like this:

“Attending worship with small children in tow can feel like trying to sleep with a helicopter hovering over your bed. What you want is refreshment and inspiration; what you get is low-level tension, discomfort, and distraction as you brace yourself for what might happen next.”

You may be able to relate.  However, I’ve become more and more convinced, that I’d much rather have my squirmy, noisy kids in worship with us than anywhere else.  It is worth it.  They may not be picking up everything (or anything) from the sermon or having a significant spiritual moment each week or any week for that matter…

But that may not be the point.

The point may be something closer to learning by immersion.  It might be closer to the power of being together over time.  It might have benefits that I never fully see until much later in life.  Despite all the distractions and hassle, it might just be worth it.

“My husband and I sometimes joke that we attend the 9:10 service (our church’s first Sunday service begins at 9am.) It doesn’t seem to matter how early we begin to get everyone ready; by the time Bibles are found, shoes and coats are donned (and hats, mittens, and boots during Minnesota winters), and the bathroom has been visited by all, we will be ten minutes late to church.

While sometimes discouraged about our seemingly perpetual tardiness, for years we overlooked an important evidence of grace: our family was in church, together. We were late, but we were there. All of us. That fact alone declares something about God. He is worth a great deal to our family. He is worth the hassle, the effort, and the work it takes to get there. He is worth the embarrassment of showing up late. He is so worthy of all of it, and of so much more. That is what worship is: declaring God to be worthy, with our words and our actions.

The hassle, tension, and effort are all worth it.  God is worth it.  Community is worth it.  Our family together, moses finger puppet and all, is worth it.  Honestly, once I really believe this – the hassle, tension, and effort start to fade out a bit.

She continues,

“But our continued presence in worship as a family is not the only declaration of God’s worth that occurs when we attend service together. In the pews, as I interact with my children, my actions declare something about God, too. They may declare that he is patient and kind, and wants to draw them into his presence; or, they may declare that God is annoyed, impatient, and eager to discipline. While there is a place for setting and enforcing boundaries for the good of our family and others, how we go about it declares something about God to those around us — especially to our children.

Most preliterate children will remember little, if any, of the sermon they hear on Sunday. The preacher’s advanced vocabulary and abstract ideas are difficult for young children to follow. They may not be able to read all the words to the songs.

But they will remember questions patiently answered, instructions given in kindness, and boundaries explained through the lens of God’s great worth. They will recall Mom’s arm around their shoulder or Dad’s lifting them up so they can see during the singing. They will remember joyful faces singing and worn Bibles opened during the sermon. These are the legacy of parental worship, regardless of how many times it was interrupted.

There is often more going on than we notice and this is a great reminder of how much they are taking in.

They absorb more than they can express.  They learn more than they show.  They are forming more ideas about mystery, community, and God than they let on.  One Sunday isn’t magical on it’s own, but the repetition over time makes a significant impact.

If you’re ready to throw in the towel as I was last week, I hope this encourages you to see it all as worth it, because it is.

“So, when someone asks me whether or not we were able to worship while sitting with our littles, I hope I can say (regardless of how much of the sermon we caught, or how many songs we were able to sing beginning to end), “Yes! God was there, and he met us.”

The boys in the picture are known as "knuckleheads" by their famous Camp Fun teacher Dave Yanke. If you want to see the original blog:

http://www.parentingthoughts.com/2016/12/distracted-worship-is-better-than-we-think/

 

 

Cel

I sit at a desk in Hamlin, Texas today, overwhelmed. When I think of my mother-in-law, and try to gather my thoughts for her memorial service, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. She was so much to so many.

To her students at Hamlin High School, she was Mrs. Cowan, the world’s greatest teacher.  She was great because she was gifted, she cared about the kids, and because she worked at it.

Cel would stay with us every summer, on her way to or from a math conference, and always excited about a “new” way to teach students. She never rested on what she knew, but was constantly looking for new ways to help her kids learn math. Her class wasn’t easy, but Cel made it fun. Her students knew she cared about them, believed in them and they were always encouraged by a couple Jolly Ranchers.

To the Sunday School class she led for decades, she was Cel, a sweet, shining example of what it means to follow Christ. Those who were in her class considered her a second mom. They loved her, were encouraged by her and she took care of them through all kinds of life events.

She was the picture of a faithful member, and supported her church in all kinds of ways. She loved the staff and friends at church, taught Awanas, and participated in just about everything that happened at FBC, Hamlin.

To too many to count she was Cel, the fun-loving, sweet and great friend. She was part of one of Hamlin’s most dynamic duos ever, Joe and Cel. To be with them, at a meal, party, event or on a trip was always lots of fun.

To her 9 grandkids, she was Mimi. As a grandmother, she was hands-down the best of the best.  Each one has a special relationship with her. They all knew, if they ever wanted to commit any transgression, from sneaking candy for breakfast to murder, do it at Mimi’s house, where she’ll protect you from your parents.

Camp Cowan 2010 

Camp Cowan 2010 

To her kids, she was Momma. She raised them, put the fear of God in them, pushed them to be their best and loved them like crazy. At times, those 4 drove her to a place where they thought she was actually crazy, but each of them always knew she was their biggest fan. Cel loved each of them dearly.

To Joe, her boyfriend from Hamlin High, and her husband for more than 50 years, she was simply Cel, the love of his life. I never saw Cel struggle, until Joe died this summer. That she couldn’t really accept or move past his death is a beautiful picture of marriage. These two were one, and they belong together, which is where they are right now in the presence of Christ. That’s as it should be.

To me she was my favorite mother-in-law. Because Celia has 3 brothers, Cel always introduced me as her  “favorite” son-in-law. She addressed all her notes to me, as FSIL (favorite son-in-law) and signed them YFMIL (your favorite mother-in-law). And you know, she was. She was my favorite.

One Thanksgiving years ago, Cel celebrated with my family in Austin. She noticed my mom served mashed potatoes with our turkey.

Tradition in the Cowan & Albritton houses didn’t include mashed potatoes in their holiday meals, but turnips (yeah, I got tricked once). Cel asked my mom why she served mashed potatoes and my mom told her mashed potatoes was one of my favorite dishes.

I never went to another Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at Cel’s house that didn’t include mashed potatoes. I never asked, she just did that for me every year, to make sure I knew she loved me.

I’ve watched Cel in lots of situations and around hundreds of people. Over all that time, I’ve seen Jesus again and again, in my favorite mother-in-law. Everyone who knew Cel had a special relationship with her. In some way, she touched students, friends and family, and they all knew they had a special friend in Cel.

I will miss her greatly, but I am overjoyed to know she is with Jesus, and Joe. And I look forward to the day I will see them again.

“We know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself…” – 2 Corinthians 5:1

lesson from a leper

There’s something about Jesus healing a leper I can’t quit thinking about. A man who should’ve kept his distance, brought his awful disease into the presence of Christ.

Over the past year, a group of guys I meet with and I have been reading and re-reading all the stories about Jesus in The Gospels. You’d think we’d remember and wouldn’t need to re-read them, but every time we read these stories, and discuss them together, we learn something new about Jesus. This story, from the first chapter of Mark, is one of the most compelling.

As an outcast man, a leper was assigned grave clothes to wear, because society considered them the walking dead. In this story, a leper came right up to Jesus to be healed. Lepers were looked down upon as though something they had done was the cause for their being afflicted with leprosy. Customs said you were to keep at least 6 feet between you and the “unclean.”

Yet, this leper has the faith to come close to Jesus and say, “if You’re willing, You can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus does exactly that.

This man didn’t just want relief from an awful skin condition that had no cure in Jesus’ day; he wanted to be made clean…made acceptable. No more being cast out and forgotten. He desired to be made whole.

Jesus is moved by his request, and his faith. He didn’t consider the man unclean or tell him to move out of His way. Instead, Jesus touched him.

No one, at that time, would have touched a leper. No one. But, all that was wrong with the leper ended in Christ.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

His name changed. Like Prince became “the artist formerly known as Prince”, this man must have become known as “the guy who used to be a leper.”

Here’s what I keep thinking about in this story:

·      Everything ends in Jesus. Jesus didn’t touch the man and then contract leprosy, as most would’ve thought. Instead, He touched him, immediately taking this man’s disease and making him well…whole. In and thru Christ, the leprosy was gone.

·      The man, who was literally falling apart and dying, is healed. And he is clean. Acceptable, able to walk within 6 feet of others, to shake a hand, to look another man in the eye without the other man looking away, to hug his loved ones and for them to hug him.

·      This dying man didn’t do anything to deserve or earn a new life, but the impossible was done for him. He just came to Jesus.

This wars with our approach to God. We self-consciously clean ourselves up, fix what’s broken, make amends and strive to get right before we come to God. As if…

Many won’t come or open up to Him because of something in their life, or what they’ve done.

Let’s take a page from the leper. What’s holding us back? Is it anger, worry, fear, addiction, shame, broken marriage, or disappointment?

The same way the man’s leprosy ended in Jesus, so our struggle, whatever it is, can end in Christ. If we go to Him, we can walk away new. Just as He did for the man who used to be a leper, we can become the man or woman who used to worry, or be afraid, ashamed, addicted, hurt or broken.