504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Big Tex and Childhood Memories

I am a Texan. I was born and raised in the Sovereign Republic of Texas (Fort Worth). I joke about being a "recovering" Texan since I moved away when I was in high school.  The I get to be back in my home state a couple of times this month.  This past weekend was state fair weekend, a special weekend in the life of any school child in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I remember getting out of school to go to the State Fair.  My father would take me to a Cowboys game every year on the weekend of my birthday (first weekend in November)--before Texas Stadium and Jerry World, the boys played in the Cotton Bowl.

I mention all of this because my teaching assistant got to go to the fair and I joked to be sure to take a picture of Big Tex, the iconic figure who dominates the center of the fairgrounds.  She took the picture on her phone and sent it to me. Big Tex has been around since the 1952 State Fair of Texas. He wore size 70 boots and a 75-gallon hat and towered 52' above fair visitors. For me, he was the reassurance that funnel cakes and carnival rides were just around the corner. Tex was there when I was a kid and he had this big voice that boomed, "Howdy Folks!"

Little did I know that it was the last day that Big Tex would stand watch over the fairgrounds.  Yesterday, the big fella was badly burned. I got a little sad. I didn't try to go to the fair while I was out there.  I was only vaguely aware that it was going on until my TA said she was going and took the picture for me. Until I heard that he had burned to the ground, I also didn't even realize that Big Tex represented for me all the great times I had with my Dad.  Dad has been gone for almost 12 years now, and being in Texas on State Fair weekend brought back those memories.

I am also grateful that the memories came back.  Dad had a tough last few years with multiple heart issues and finally his kidneys failed.  It was okay with me that the painful memories of my father in dialysis were shuffled around to accommodate the memories of a little boy in boots and shorts going to the fair with my hero.

Paul said in 1 Cor 11:1, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."  I get it.  As a father, I do my best to imitate Jesus. In doing so, I hope to clear a path that makes Jesus clearly visible for my son and daughter. Then I make memories with them so that they get to see me love Jesus as I love them.  Sometimes the memories are pleasant, and sometimes they are a little sad when a life situation seems to go up in flames. Either way, the ministry of presence and imitation is how God told us to pass the faith to the next generation.

I will miss you, Big Tex.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Randy Johnson and Faithfulness in Ministry

My friend Randy Johnson has been a youth minister for almost 40 years, 26 at the same church. He is retiring as a youth minister, something that has become extremely rare. I got to fellowship with Randy at the Texas Baptist Youth Ministry Conclave where we were surrounded with others who have been faithful for a long time. Dr. Phil Briggs made a cameo appearance despite dealing with a family tragedy. Jane Wilson keeps finding a way to speak into youth ministers in a fresh way.

Randy's legacy will never be known this side of heaven. He has influenced people like me (we coauthored a book back in the day). He has influenced institutions, serving on boards and committees. He was instrumental in the creation of a youth ministry degree at Howard Payne University, his beloved alma mater. He serves now on the board of the missions education center near the border in South Texas, a wonderful place where people are trained in ministry. He has helped with the YM Conclave for as long as I can remember. There is no way count the number of people who have directly or indirectly been better because they crossed paths with Randy Johnson.

But beyond the youth ministers and interns who have been encouraged and equipped by Randy's presence in their lives are the students. My brain is not wired for the higher math needed to calculate the exponential impact that he and his wife Carol have had on class after class of students who have come through their ministry. I am glad that some have sent notes--Randy teared up a little as he told me of a college girl who wrote to tell Randy that she was able to stand as a disciple because of her experience in ministry where Randy was the shepherd.

The book of Hebrews tells of the heavenly audience that surrounds earthly faithfulness. Randy, I know you don't seek the recognition, but I hope you can hear their applause as you close this chapter of ministry.  I know that I am inspired and encouraged by my friend who is finishing this chapter and finishing well. It will be fun to watch the next chapter be written.