Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dead Indeed

You know that shoe that's always on the other foot? Well, there have been many occasions in my life where I have shown the uncanny knack of shoving that size 14 right into my big ole mouth. There was that one time Angie and I were facilitating a marriage enrichment course and I congratulated a guy for some great news I had heard he had gotten on a health scare, only to find out from his wife sitting beside of him (remember, we are trying to make marriages better here) that he had not told her of the good news yet. Ooops. My bad. Then there was that other time when I asked a fella how his wife was doin. It seems, unbeknownst to me, that they had been divorced for a while. Yikes. My bad again. You would think after a while that I would learn my lesson and get sick of tasting shoe leather. But alas, that old shoe still finds its way into my pie hole every now and then. 

I can say that the two examples above are similar to most of the others in my life like them.....I honestly didn't intend to say anything that was hurtful or out of place, it just sorta came out that way. Most of those times it was because I was oblivious to a certain situation or was just plain ole naive. I've found that even at 45 years old that I am actually pretty good at being naive. I guess it's a gift. Don't hate. 

Another one of those common shoe-chewing segments of life, at least for me, is found when visiting the funeral home. During these most delicate times we want to say just the right and timely thing to members of a grieving family. As sincerely and as compassionately as we might try, we may yet still leave the funeral home scratching our heads wondering how in the world we could have messed up our condolence speech. I guess it's one of those things where the harder you try, the worse it ends up. 

Stressful situations seem to bring about these foot to mouth incidences as much as any other. I think it's fair to say that it caught some people off guard a few Sundays ago when it was announced that my position as pulpit minister at the Fairfield church of Christ was coming to an end. Needless to say, even though I had known for a few days that the announcement was going to be made, I absolutely fell to pieces, as if though I was hearing it for the first time like most everyone else. I had already had time to begin making peace with the decision and had put my faith in the divine providence and guidance of God, and yet it was still one of the hardest days of my life. It was primarily that way because of the love that I have for the people of the Fairfield church of Christ and the love that I know most of them have for me. So, in light of the announcement, it created for me, and for a few others as well, the feelings of grief and sadness. You know, sorta like being in a funeral home. We were beginning the process of separation. We were beginning the process of saying goodbye. We were beginning the process of a new phase of life. It was the beginning of the end and the beginning of the beginning all in one. 

In the immediate days that followed, the outpouring of kindness to my family was beyond overwhelming. And perhaps, the most humbling part of the entire situation was the emergence of so many well-wishes from people inside and outside of our community who were not members of Fairfield and some who aren't members of a church anywhere. The kindness and love that we have felt has been as a life-preserver in a raging sea. 

Much like in a funeral home setting, this situation was one where folks wanted to say the right thing.....wanted to say the sensitive thing.....wanted to say the tactful thing. As a result of our departure from Fairfield, some folks, who were no doubt trying to find just the right words to say, remarked, "Well, he ain't dead. It's gonna be OK." Those well-intentioned people were right on both accounts.....No, I ain't dead and yes, it's gonna be OK:) I myself have many times said the same exact thing about other folks in other similar situations of separation. I too wanted to remind people that some person was just moving on, but they weren't dead. I too wanted to remind people that some person would still be around, just in another capacity, but they weren't dead. I too tried to lighten the mood by reminding people that we weren't throwing dirt on the persons box.....so to lighten the mood I told em to lighten up .... "They ain't dead".  But now, I'm not gonna say that anymore, and here's why....

Indeed, I'm not dead any more than those folks that I said the same things about aren't dead. It occurs to me that the word "dead" is what we use when we sometimes actually mean "change". Yes, it actually is true.....some things about that relationship may dead, or at least changed. Yes, it actually is true.....some things about that situation may be dead, or at least changed. Yes, it actually is true.....some things that had become routine were halted, some things that had become comfortable were ceased, some things that had become normalcy were expired. So in some way, on some level, at some depth, yes, death is involved. An end has come. Change has taken place. That phase of life as we knew it is over. Time to move on. 

So, the next time someone moves from one phase of life to another.....the next time someone loses a job.....the next time someone loses a home.....the next time someone gets divorced.....the next time someone has some significant change in their lives, think twice before you say "Good grief, lighten up. They ain't dead." If you say those words you are the one that's dead. Dead wrong. 



Friday, December 19, 2014

The letter that changed my life

We all have those concrete moments in life. You know, the occasions where you can remember the specific time and place where something happened that altered your existence forever. It's sorta like remembering where you were when JFK or MLK was killed or when 911 occurred. Those events and others like them will stick out in our minds as long as we live. 

Most of us can remember very vividly those few moments that really shape our lives; those times when we were finally pushed off the balance beam. During my 45 years I have had my share of those events. One such incident took place in the Fall of 2009. Without going into great detail, the hateful and arrogant actions of a fellow church of Christ minister during a Gospel Meeting finally pushed me over that proverbial edge. It was after that awful situation that I decided to write the following article in the Fairfield bulletin. 

At the time I really didn't think that the article was that big of a deal, I suppose because the thoughts had been running around in my mind for a few years....I just hadn't verbalized it to many people. But boy was I wrong. Apparently it was a really big deal. As soon as that article hit mailboxes from far and near, my phone began to ring. A lot. The very first call I received was from a friend of mine who had read the article. He asked if I was OK, to which I replied, "Yea I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" I seriously didn't understand why he was asking me that. I mean it was just a few paragraphs in a church newsletter. No big thing, right? Wrong. 

So the phone continued to ring. And the letters began coming in. Some from here. Some from way away from here. It amazed me that there was even a guy from Nebraska who called. Most of these calls began the same way and ended the same way. They began with well-intentioned people wanting to challenge/fight me because of my perceived "error" and turning my back on the "truth". It ended with me saying that I appreciated them being concerned for my spiritual well-being and that I would not be fighting or debating anyone. I believed what I believed. They believed what they believed. They could quote verses. I could quote verses. Why couldn't we just let it go, love each other in spite of our very few differences, and be about the business of trying to introduce Jesus to those yet without Him? That response worked with some, and stoked the fire with others. 

Several things along those same lines occurred in the following years as a result of the article ..... some of which were pleasant & many of which were painful. I could not write another word without acknowledging how supportive the elders of Fairfield were to me during that time. I know it would have been very easy for them to have listened to many of the letters they were receiving encouraging them to fire me. But they didn't. They didn't stand behind me ..... they stood in front of me and my family and took a lot of heat and ridicule because of my actions. I will never, ever forget how those Shepards treated my family as sheep and protected us. I love them for that .... because of how they showed their love for me. 

I have had people ask me if I could go back would I change anything about that article or even not write it at all. My answer has always been "No." Always. Yes, I understand how some folks would perceive that my letter was just a knee-jerk reaction to a preacher who had acted like a jerk. It wasn't that at all. It was just the final straw in a very long line of other straws. 

So, read on if you wish. Now over 5 years later I thought I would post a copy of the letter that changed my life. Even as I type this I know, that like 5 years ago, there will be some who will want to correct my theology and point out my error. And that's ok. But I, like 5 years ago, will simply say "Thank you for being concerned" and "No, I will not argue or debate." I just want to show the love of Jesus to those who have never seen it. I figure surely we can all agree on that, can't we?


Date: 9/23/2009 
Fairfield church of Christ bulletin
Author: Devin
Title: Time to move on

I want you to please understand that this is not a rash decision. I don't feel like I am rushing into anything, as this issue has been running around in my mind for quite some time. Truth be known, this is something that I have pondered regularly for the last few years. I have especially been thinking about it a lot lately as a result of much prayer, Bible study and various life circumstances. As with any major decision, I have tried to objectively examine this from every angle and determine what the long-range effects might be on myself and as well as on others around me. So, after much deliberation with myself and God ..... for better or for worse ..... I have finally made the decision. As of today, Tuesday, September 22, I no longer want to be a “Church of Christ” preacher. Does this mean that I am resigning as pulpit minister of the Church of Christ at Fairfield? Absolutely, positively not. I hope to be here for many years to come. Does it mean that I don't want to be associated with God's people and worship with them on a regular basis any more? Certainly not. The happiest moments of my life are spent around Christians. Please allow me to explain in the following way.

I understand that my statement may come as a shock to some and a relief to others. Some might question the fact as to whether I was truly a preacher to begin with anyway ..... a thought that has even crossed my mind a time or two ..... or thousand. I want you to understand that I speak of-and- for myself only. There are certainly many talented and loving ministers within the Churches of Christ who do a remarkable job at spreading the Good News. I, though, must take this opportunity to repent of my own ignorance and error in times past. I beg forgiveness for the times that I have stood in judgment of someone while at the same time having a two-by-four sticking out of my own eye. I apologize for all the times that I preached certain issues as being Biblical doctrine and matters of salvation when in actuality I was foolishly trying to defend the commandments and traditions of men. I humbly request pardon for all the times that my attitude was haughty, arrogant, rude, mean-spirited, and down right hateful. I'm sorry for any occasion where I assisted someone in feeling beat down, unlovable and unforgivable. I fall on my knees in repentance both to God and my brothers and sisters in Christ and hope and pray that trust can soon be restored in me once again.

Please take time to read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, especially Galatians 1:6-10. I think Paul was thinking about me when he penned that passage, for I believe I have been guilty of “perverting the gospel of Christ” (vs 7). I have taken part in trying to uphold the traditional aspects of my beliefs while all the while shunning the true message of what the gospel actually is ..... the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of God's perfect Son. I have spent far too much time embracing “foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law” (Titus 3:9), while my time could have been much better spent on the “greatest commandment in the Law ..... Loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind and loving my neighbor as myself” (Matthew 22:36-40). But alas, all that is in the past, and God willing, I will be given time to change only that which I can ..... the future.

It is my Biblical, heartfelt belief that God desires for me to be no other kind of preacher than a “Gospel preacher” ..... no more and no less. Fact of the matter is, I think he desires that for us all as we “go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). I believe it is God's desire that we plainly preach the doctrine of Christ rather than “Church of Christ” doctrine. Can the two of those things be different as night and day? You bet 'cha. But could they also be synonymous with one another? Absolutely. God has left it up to us to decide which way it will be.

Go the extra mile - Devin 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Talkin about a fish out of water.  I have about as much business writing a blog as Michael Jordan does of successfully trying to play Major League Baseball. Trust me.....I know how that one turned out and it wasn't pretty. This blog endeavor may very well turn out even worse than a really tall guy trying to play baseball for the Birmingham Barons.  But, being somewhat of a risk taker, I figure the worst I can do is take 3 good cuts and then go back to the bench. So, I guess you can consider this effort as me taking my first cut at a blog fastball.....

I hope that some of these musings may be just decent enough for you to take time to read even though most may be at best a pitiful swing and a whiff. I'm not sure how this thing is gonna go but a few folks have encouraged me to write a blog, so if it absolutely stinks, then I will send you a list of those who suggested that I do it and you can send them all the hate mail you want. In fact, before this is over I may just send them a few ugly lines myself.

Sometimes I intend to just write a few lines and before you know it I'm working on a reincarnation of "Moby Dick". The thoughts flood my head quicker than I am able to type them. I'm sure there have been times in the past, and I have no doubt there will be times in the future, where you will ask yourself, "Is this goof ball ever going to land this plane and get to the point?".  It's absolutely ok for you to think that (you probably are right now) and many times I'm even telling myself to shut-up but just can't seem to get the message across to me. That's the beauty of that little red ball or "X" at the top left of your computer screen. You can just shut me up any time you want to. Angie has unsuccessfully looked for those buttons for going on 25 years now ..... bless her heart.

The life of our family has recently taken a couple of drastic turns. On November 5 of this year our daughter Kaylee gave birth to her daughter and our first grandchild, Ava Rose. Yes indeed she is perfect in every way possible and for those of you with little boys around her age, I'm sorry, no you can't fix them up, she has already decided she's gonna go live in a Convent when she turns 18. The other turn in our lives took place on the last Sunday of the same exact month. After 9 wonderful years as pulpit minister of the Fairfield church of Christ in Centerville, TN.,  I preached my final sermon on November 30, tearfully said good-bye to some of the best people on the face of this earth, and pulled out of the parking lot for the last time as the fella who got to sit in the office next to Ms Carolyn.  One life altering event in a month is difficult in and of itself. Throw another life altering event on top of that and your gonna have a 24-hour period where a grown man (me) cries his eyes out all day long while trying to accept the plan that God has seemingly laid out. You know what they say, "Be very careful what you pray for"..... sometimes God will take you up on it.

I have lots and lots of stuff that I want to talk about. Hopefully I will be able to make time to regularly write a thing or two. Sometimes it may be just a few lines and other times you may need to make sure you have a extra tall glass of sweet tea beside of you to sip on for a good long while as you read my ramblings. And in case you didn't know, that #23 guy playing baseball didn't work out so well, but, I have a Chicago Bulls tattoo on my right arm so, yea, I'm sorta stuck with him til dirt is thrown on my box. Sorta like Angie with me ..... bless her heart :)