Sunday, January 20, 2019

First Date: the ask

When we met in November Gail was coming off of an on-again-off-again long term relationship.  Not being in the same social circles at school we had not met prior to my becoming her co-worker.  I might have bought a donut or two from her my freshman year when the cheerleaders sold donuts in the dorm to raise funds, but I don’t remember.  I did, however, know who she was, since she had cheered my first two years at school.  And it was a small school in those days, not much bigger (or smaller) than most high schools.  Everyone knew who the cheerleaders were.  

We weren’t much more than acquaintances from our time working together before the holidays.
So, it wasn’t my business, nor did I know that she was unattached romantically.  And, honestly, as I said in the earlier post, I wasn’t interested.  But, she was coming off an on again-off again relationship of a couple years when we met. 

After finals, Christmas break came and I got lots of extra hours at work.  The other students were gone for the holidays, and being a local resident with nowhere to go, I worked.  For Gail, it was probably the first Christmas in a long time when she didn’t have a boyfriend.  My hunch is that during that week or two while she was at home she came up with a plan.  Unbeknownst to me, I was part of the scheme.

Such are the wiles of a woman.

After her break-up she had been out with another guy, but it wasn’t anything she wanted to continue.  Like most young ladies, who struggle with telling a guy “thanks, but no thanks”, she wanted to let it be known that she was not in a committed relationship to anyone.  And how would she do that?  Oh, yeah. The plan. (At least this is how I surmise what happened.)

So, it’s after Christmas break, sometime in January, and I get asked this question: “Would you go with me to a basketball game so others can see I’m not dating so and so.”  In essence I was a decoy.  IF (big IF) she had any interest in me at all, I had no clue.  You’ll have to ask her,  I saw it as an opportunity to do a friend a favor.  And honestly, I wanted to hear from my friends when they saw me at the game with Gail.  As one later asked me, “Aren’t you a bit out of your league?”.  

I’ve never played bush league anything.

So, I agreed to escort her to the game at Jefferson Forest High School, where Liberty Baptist College played its home games.  

No big deal.  











Saturday, January 19, 2019

First Date: How we met

Mostly for my kids.  

The older I get the more I appreciate writing down stories for them...stories that tell our heritage.  Actually, I’m discovering that I enjoy writing them down and telling them for my own enjoyment.  I’ve always been a history freak, ever since my great-grandfather (born in 1883) would sit me on his knee and tell me about being in the Marines during the Boxer Rebellion at the very end of the 19th century.  His tales not only captured my imagination as a boy, but gave me knowledge about my roots that I otherwise probably would not have known.

If you’re not my kid, you are welcome to read my meanderings about the life God has given Gail and I over the past 40 plus years.  

This coming weekend she and I will celebrate our very first “date”.  I put quotation marks around it because it’s purpose wasn’t for us to get to know each other better, hoping for a continued dating relationship.  Not at all.  

I was at the time in a long-distance relationship with a girl I had met the previous summer while doing an internship in Florida.  And that relationship was growing stronger, even though since summer we would only see each other for a few days in December when she came to visit.  I already had a girlfriend, thank you.

In November of 1975 I was a 20-year old unemployed junior in college.  A job would have been great, but I was carrying a full load of classes, was living at home and wasn’t overly ambitious to go out and find one.  So, I was broke. And broke at 20 means (among other things) no social life other than the occasional pickup basketball game at the gym.    

My mom worked in a doctor’s office.  She came home one day to tell me that one of the patients, a sales associate at JC Penney mentioned to her that the store was looking to hire in their shoe department.  The busy Christmas season was cranking up, and they needed extra help.  I had worked my senior year of high school selling shoes for Kinney Shoes in Alexandria, so mom said something like, “You should go over there and apply”.  

Having no car was not an issue.  Pittman Plaza shopping center, where Penney’s was located was just about 4 blocks from our home.  So, I applied, got interviewed and was hired.  Having occasionally shopped there, I was somewhat motivated to go for the job since I knew that there were three or four LBC coeds working there, and all were cute girls.  As fate would have it, one of them quit after Christmas break, so I was given her job.  Thanks, Betsy
It was there, selling shoes that Gail Ballentine and I became friends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Lesson from the Unborn John the Baptist

Two of our grandkids spent the night with us Monday.  It's always fun to have grandkids in the house...unless they're arguing over something!  (Not that a brother and sister would argue.)

Our morning routine is to read a daily devotional and pray together before I head out to work.  That includes a cup of coffee.  With the two kids up and about in the house our routine wasn't going to be the same.  So, while I was finishing up my bowl of Special K Gail texted me.   (Yes, we've slid down that slippery slope, it appears.)

"Come here with age appropriate devotion for all of us.  And another cup of coffee."

Hmmm.  I'm a Bible teacher, so here was a challenge I would accept.  On the fly.

With it being eight days before Christmas I thought of something with a Christmas theme.  My thoughts went to the story in Luke 1 of Mary's visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, herself about six months along, carrying John the Baptist in her womb.

I read from the Bible app on my smart phone (yes, I'm there, too) some of the story, keeping it age appropriate.  When Mary (recently impregnated with her consent* by the power of the Holy Spirit) arrived after a long journey from Nazareth to Judea she greeted Elizabeth.   "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

"Did you know that babies inside their mothers can hear sounds and people's voices?", I asked them.  "That is why when a baby is born and his or her mommy or daddy speaks to him/her ("it" is not an appropriate word for any of us) that baby will focus on the person speaking because the baby recognizes the voice".

Then I continued with the seed I hoped to plant in their young minds.

"Was tiny John the Baptist a person inside his mother?"  You could see them thinking, because in their experience a "person" is someone who can be seen.  I followed up with pointing out that he (unborn John) responded to Mary's voice, which was not familiar to him, but got his attention at just six months gestation.  OK, I didn't say "gestation".

They got it.  Unborn babies are people, too, with the ability to respond to voices.  More than anyone else, being unable to protect themselves, they need our protection

I hope they never forget that.

I still believe that "Jesus loves the little children of the world."  Certainly He doesn't exclude the littlest ones.

* "My it be done to me according to your word."  Luke 1:38

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"I Remember He Was Tall"

Our young family, ca. 1992, was given tickets through a Congressional office for a White House tour.  I'm a native Washingtonian, but had never been in the presidential mansion.  This was not not a tour opened to the general public where you stand in line and buy tickets (do they still do that?), but a bit more lengthy and comprehensive.  Our guide was a Secret Service agent.  My kids were all in elementary school and George H. W. Bush was President.  #41.

At one point in the tour we went through a room with garage doors.  It was just to get from point A to point B in the tour.  Our guide, with a bit of a surprised look gathered the group - maybe a dozen of us total, and had us stop.  Suddenly another door opened and in walked several Secret Service agents with President Bush.

Clearly, they were a bit surprised to see us in that room, and wanted to hurry him past us to get him outside and into his awaiting vehicle.  But, he would have none of that.  He walked around to us, greeted us and expressed that he hoped we were enjoying the tour while shaking hands.

I leaned down to my kids and said, "He's the President."

Gail remembers, "some men in suits coming down the steps and making a path. Followed by more men in suits, I was starting to wonder what was happening. Then I saw President Bush in the middle of all the men. He stood out because he was taller than the others, a big smile, and we all gasped, we just weren't expecting to see him. Then he stopped to greet some in our tour group. I was holding Rachel's hand, picked her up so she could see him (then later explain who he was). I think that he would have shaken everyone's hand if he was not being encouraged to move along by all the men. Then he was gone and we were all so excited that we got to see our President!"

My son Nathan, who is our oldest and would have been about eleven at the time says, "We were walking down a hall. I was near the front of the group and didn’t know who it was until he was past me. He shook hands with people behind me.  I remember he was tall."

It all took maybe a minute.  Then he was whisked away to some other location where he was needed, solving, no doubt the country/world's ills.  But, that he would stop to welcome us and shake a few hands said something to me about this kind, gentle man, at the time the most powerful man in the world.  We've heard so much of him the past few days.  I have no problem believing the eulogies.

He was the last of the greatest generation to lead our nation.  Tall, indeed, in many ways.

After President Bush exited, our tour guide looked at us and in amazement said, "That never happens".  I'm glad I was there when it did.

RIP, Mr. President.






Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Searching for Humility

“He must become more important. I must become less important.” - John the Baptist

My years of shepherding Jesus’ flock have continued to prove that the greatest challenge in the life of a disciple is to be selfless. When my walk with the Lord is conditioned on my wants and not His I’m walking alone.

To paraphrase John, “It’s not about me.” He recognized that Jesus was the "lamb of God who takes away the world's sin".  As popular as John was at the time, he knew he was no Jesus. 

No wonder Jesus called him the greatest man ever born.

He got it.  Our innate human nature is not to be humble but to find some reason for human pride; not to be selfless, but to exalt self; not to remove pick up the towel and serve, but to demand to be served. 

And this applies even to the most sincere Christ followers.  Ask Peter.  As the old Pogo cartoon aptly said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

I'd like to be more like Jesus' cousin John, although I know he would tell me to look, not at him, but at Jesus.  What better time of year to do so than when we remember that the Almighty willingly chose to not only become human, but to do so as a baby in a poor family whose first cradle was a manger.

 [Jesus Christ],  who, existing in the form of God,  
      did not consider equality with God 
      as something to be used for His own advantage. 
7      Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, 
      taking on the likeness of men. 
      And when He had come as a man in His external form, 
8      He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
      to the point of deatheven to death on across.
Philippians 2:6-8 (HCSB)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Let’s Stop the Hate



I heard the news Saturday afternoon of the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.  Finding out that something like that has happened again in the “land of the free” brings (at least on me) a cocktail of emotions.  Shock is followed by incredulity.  I felt anger toward the hatred that overcame the perpetrator and sadness and compassion for the victims and their families.

That this followed so quickly on the heels of another hate-filled man sending pipe bombs to targeted men and women who have been either leaders or vocal in their support of a particular ideology underscores the evil hatred that lurks somewhere nearby, just under the radar for most of us. 

That such an attack happened in a house of worship should give us all greatest alarm.  One of the highest virtues of our system in America is the freedom to worship without fear of governmental control, and without the fear that what happened Saturday could ever happen.  We’re still recovering in many ways from a similar incident in a Texas Baptist church 51 weeks ago, proving that any faith, any house of worship can become a target of deranged hatred.

Disagreement is part and parcel to a free society.  Debate is the discourse that allows us to present the rationale, hopefully a rationale that is reasoned and moral, in our democratic republic.  Healthy debate, healthy disagreement is a good thing, allowing us to not only understand differences but to work toward living together with them in peaceful ways.

If you read the news and especially the commentary (which is what this piece is) you’ll find finger-pointing and blame being passed around.  It especially concerns me that those claiming to follow the Prince of Peace can spread vitriol toward others with whom they find offensive rather than seeking the “ministry of reconciliation” to which they’ve been called.  Look up 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. 

Sadly, somewhere in the last decade the notion that disagreement equaled hate became popular in many.  That translates into the idea that a vote for one is hatred for the other.  That translates into the idea that if one’s world view is influenced by a particular theology it must by default hate those who adopt a different world view.  That notion has in itself resulted in a growing hate between us in so many ways.

Hatred for another because of those differences, whether religious, political or racial is destructive to the foundation of our society.  And there are societies built on foundations of hate, who only seek to either convert infidels or if that is not possible, to kill them off.  In a small way, that is what took place Saturday morning.  That is what was attempted last week as bombs were mailed.

There has to be a better way.  The Good News is that things can change and that anyone can become a new creation, allowing the Creator to fix what’s broken in each of us.  I’m actually a believer that indeed, things will change for the better.  It’s why I pray, “Your Kingdom come”. 

Ultimately the blame is on the brokenness of humanity.  Of course, we’re not all haters.  We’re not all terrorists or mass-murderers.  Some are broken in ways far deeper than most.  And it is true that words, more than anything flame the misguided passions that become hate, whether those words emanate from the church house, the White House, or your house or mine. 

I can't get past Saturday's synagogue massacre. How is it rational or moral to hate people because of their religion? (Of course, the answer is, "it isn't"). I'm unashamedly Christian, and I disagree with many other religions' basic tenets. But disagreement and hate don't need to hold hands. Not in a Christian's hands.

Let’s cry out against hatred while at the same time keeping our disagreements civil.  Let’s realize that to truly hate one of us is to hate us all, regardless of color or creed.   

Let’s realize that to hate Jews is to hate Jesus.  Jesus said hate is the moral equivalent of murder.  And to hate Jesus has many ramifications, none of which are to anyone’s benefit.  To hate Jesus is to hate Christians – His followers.  To hate Jesus is to welcome an eternity separated from Him in Hell. 

Hate is just wrong. Let’s stop the hate.

Rick Lawrenson is the Lead Pastor of Nags Head Church.

© 2018 Rick Lawrenson

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Friday, October 26, 2018

When You Have to Let Them Go

Certainly, an effort must be made to reclaim lost sheep.  Jesus said that’s what shepherds do.  But if after honest, sincere efforts you discover they have no desire to come back, you have to let them go.  You’ll have enough to do with the sheep who are in the fold.  Put your focus on them.

From The Replanted Church.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Is You Is or Is You Isn't?

The idea of an “inactive [church] member” is really a contradiction of terms.  So let’s stop pretending about who is part of our churches.

Paul seemed to be clear in his letters to the churches that not only should every believer belong to a local church, but that every one who belongs does so to contribute in an active way.
From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. - Ephesians 4:16 HCSB (Emphasis mine).

To the struggling Corinthian church he wrote
A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial… - 1 Corinthians 12:7 (My emphasis again).

The historian Luke recorded that those 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost who believed and were baptized became part of the Jerusalem church.
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.  (Yes, I’m still emphasizing).

Also check Paul’s words to the Roman church in Romans 12:3-10 about using the gifts God gives to benefit the church.  An uninvolved “member” really isn’t a member.





Taken from The Replanted Church.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Giving Grace

Last week (and all week) a commercial truck was parked in our church parking lot.  We don't mind during the week...we have plenty of space.  But on Sundays (including last Sunday) we often not only see every parking space filled, but we park along the street and anywhere we can put a car.  (That's a great problem to have at church, by the way.)

But the company owning the truck didn't ask if they could park it there.  It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.  And they didn't move it for Sunday.  I called the number on the side of the truck and left a message on Saturday.  "Just wondering if you were going to move the truck before Sunday morning?"  But, it was Saturday and their office was closed.  So, I didn't really expect a reply. 

And I didn't get one.

There was some talk among a few at church on Sunday about having the truck towed.  It seems the owner of the company doesn't have the best reputation in the community.  But I said, "No.  I'll talk to them tomorrow.  It's OK for now."

My office window faces the place where the truck was parked, and on Monday morning I saw a guy open the truck door and prepare to drive off.  So, I went out to meet him.  I explained that we didn't mind him parking here during the week, but we needed the space on Sundays. 

He apologized and said the truck wouldn't be back.  The driver lives in the neighborhood, by the way.

Tuesday afternoon, while working on Sunday's sermon, I looked up to see another truck (same company) parking in the same space.  Since I had told him it was OK during the week I thought nothing of it.  But, after parking it I saw him coming to the office door, so I got up to meet him there.

"My wife has been transported by ambulance to a hospital.  Is it OK if I leave the truck here for a couple days? I'm on my way there now." 

I had heard the page (I carry a fire/ems pager) to transport her earlier.  So, I knew she was pretty sick.

"Of course.  Park it here.  What's your wife's name? Can I pray for her?"  He shared her name and his as well and thanked me for the prayers. 

It got me thinking about grace.  Had we had the truck towed, or even told them not to park it there I somehow think Christ would have been not only absent, but ashamed.  Instead, He saw to it that we get to minister to this man.  Who knows what might come of it? 

Grace is far better than law.  Law was on our side, had we towed the truck or put up a sign, "Church Parking Only!".  But grace says something far greater, doesn't it? 

This recovering fundamentalist is still learning.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Be in tune with the Spirit


I’m a firm believer in the church being the body of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit places those in the body who will be productive and cooperative within the body.  See 1Corinthians 12:1-11.  And since the Spirit has that role, He also has the role of moving people out who no longer work with what He is trying to accomplish.  The role of the pastor/replanter is to be in tune with the Spirit and follow His lead.