Defining Moments in My Life (Part 3)

A comment at a conference – It was my junior year. I was 20 years old. I was an engineering major. And I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I attended a conference that was geared toward those who were in the same boat as I was… on the fast track to a good job and worldly success but not sure that was really the way that we wanted to spend the next 40 years of our lives. I heard a speaker that weekend make a comment that changed the whole direction of my life. He said this: “There are only 2 things in this world that are eternal, God’s Word and people, therefore we should spend our lives investing in these 2 eternal things.” From that point on I began considering vocational ministry so that I could maximize the time I had to invest in eternal things. I decided to finish out my engineering degree since that was the quickest way out of college and began thinking about graduate school at a seminary where I could get theologically grounded. Lesson learned: You never know how something that you say may challenge someone to change the course of their life – for good or for bad – so be careful what you say.

Hearing God speak loud and clear (the third time) – It was the summer of 1980. Linda had graduated from UNC-G and I had graduated from Tulane. We had been dating (mostly long distance) for 1 year. We were at Myrtle Beach for the week hanging out with my family. One evening while walking on the beach I expressed to her that I was having some doubts about our relationship. This came from out of nowhere to her and made for a very awkward evening. I couldn’t sleep so I went out to the hallway of the condo complex where we were staying and was praying. Again, in the quiet of the night, God spoke very loud and clear to me – not an audible voice but as loud in my spirit as if it were audible. This time He said, “You are to marry that girl!” There has never been a doubt in my mind from that night on that Linda is supposed to be my wife. And here we are now, 30 years later, enjoying each other in a great marriage and the fruit of  what comes from willful obedience to God.

August 1, 1981 (8.1.81)So I proposed on Christmas Day 1980 and we were married on August 1, 1981. We had a really fun celebration. A lot of my friends came up from Aiken. We were able to share with all our friends and family about how we intended for the Lord to be priority in our marriage. Wedding was Saturday afternoon. Flew to Atlanta for Saturday night and then to Bermuda for our honeymoon. It’s been a fun, fast 29+ years. God has used my wonderful bride to complete me, to help steer the direction of my life, and to be a fabulous helpmate as we have raised 3 children, served on 2 church staffs, and sought to navigate the sometimes rough waters of this world. It’s been a fun ride and I’m glad she has been with me every step of the way. We’re excited about what the next 30 years have in store.

***(The last few Defining Moments will appear in a later post)

Defining Moments In My Life (Part 2)

Spring of my freshman year at Tulane University (1977)

My decision to attend Tulane University (New Orleans, La.) – I applied to 4 schools as a senior in high school: Clemson, Cornell, Duke, and Tulane. I got accepted to Clemson, turned down by Cornell, wait listed at Duke and accepted to Tulane. For some reason at the time I did not want to go to the same school that all my friends were going to – which was either Clemson or U of South Carolina. I chose Tulane for 2 reasons. 1) My grandfather had gone there, and 2) it had a very good engineering program. I went there and majored in Biomedical Engineering. I remember sitting in my dorm room before classes had even begun, not really knowing anybody, when there is a knock on my door. I open it and this young man says to me,”Hi my name is Dirk, I understand that you are a Christian.” Well, I certainly had not told anyone that I was a Christian at that point so I was a bit surprised how he knew this. It turned out that he was with Campus Crusade for Christ – thus began my college career and my association with CCC. Little did I know at this point how that first conversation would impact my life.

Hearing God speak loud and clear (the first time) – So my last year of high school I had begun playing games with God. I was Mr. good Christian kid whenever I was around the church but away from church I was acting in some very non Christian ways. The most obvious was partying and drinking. So off I go to Tulane, join a fraternity and continue my game playing. Of course this was not hard to do in “Sin City” with The French Quarter so close by. All the while I am getting more and more involved with CCC and even assuming some leadership roles. How do you spell “hypocrite?” So in January I think God was pretty saddened by my choices and decided to give me a chance to repent once and for all. I remember walking across campus from my fraternity towards my dorm when I heard God speak to me as clear as I ever have. It was probably not audible but it was nonetheless unmistakeably loud and clear. He said, “Decide now!! What side of the fence are you going to live on?” It was loud enough that it stopped me in my tracks. And it was loud enough that I knew I couldn’t just blow it off. That day is the day that I surrendered my life to the Lord. I quit the game playing, quit the drinking, and began seeking to know Him and to find out how to serve Him.

The first picture I have of Linda and I Galveston, Tx (July 1979)

Hearing God speak loud and clear (the second time) – So fast forward 2 years, I am now in my junior year at Tulane. I have applied to go on a Campus Crusade beach project in Myrtle Beach SC. My thinking is that I can be a part of a project and still not be far from my home in Aiken for the summer. In early April I got notified by CCC that I was NOT accepted to the Myrtle Beach project but that I had been accepted to a project in Galveston, Texas. I had absolutely no desire to go to Texas for the summer so I fired off a reply to Crusade saying thanks anyway but I was declining their offer. I was lying on my sofa later that day listening to some music by Keith Green with my headphones on when God again spoke extremely loud and clear. This time He said, ” Go to Galveston! I’m not going to tell you why but you need to go to Galveston!” Again the voice was unmistakable. I knew without a doubt that God had spoken to me. So you know what I did? I went to Galveston that summer. And it was a life changing decision and a life changing summer… ’cause that’s where I met a young lady named Linda Tucker.

*The next 3 Defining Moments will appear in a later post

Ode to a Great Friend

EVERYBODY should have a friend like Bobby Salmon. I consider it a privilege to be his friend. Today is Bobby’s 50th birthday. I wanted to use my blog time to try to express why he is such a great friend and why I appreciate him so much.

1. He loves God and is a follower of His Son Jesus – This is expressed in a lot of the ways that I will mention below, but the  bottom line is that he genuinely loves God. Everything that he does flows from this fact. His life is centered on knowing God and obeying His Word. He is not just a good church goer – He actually practices what he says that he believes. I love that about him.

2. He has a great family – I love his family.  Kim, Tyler, Jordan, and Morgan. But more than that – he loves his family. I have watched him over the last 12 or so years as he has poured his life into them. He has been an involved husband and dad. Not a passive, hope-my-family-turns-out-ok kind of dad. And he has made sure that if nothing else, they know that they are loved.

3. He is a servant-leader – In the truest meaning of the term. He is a servant par excellance. He loves to serve God, serve his church, serve others. He finds great joy in helping – especially in helping others. He will do anything for you if it is in his power to do so. But he is also a true leader. In fact, I know few people who are as good at leading others as he is. And he leads in such a way that you want to follow. The mark of a great leader.

4. He is a generous giver – I know this because he has been very generous to me and my family. Generosity is an indication of a man who understands grace. Bobby knows how much he has been given by God – how gracious God has been to him – and in turn is generous to others and to his church.

5. He loves Haiti – 10 years ago Bobby began going to Haiti and has gone just about every year since then when it was possible and sometimes more than once a year. He loves the country. He loves the people. He loves Pastor Leon Dorleans. He has invested time, money, sweat, and tears into making the country a better place to live. Here are a few pics of him from over the years:

6. He is hard worker and a bonafide success story – By the world’s standards, Bobby is a successful man. Every bit of his success has been earned , not handed to him. But he is a hard worker at whatever he does – whether he is in the gym working out, or building a house in Haiti, or serving in the church. Whatever he does, he does with all his might. He is a great example of working hard and not expecting life to be handed to you.

7. He is very civic minded – Not only does he give a lot of his time to his family and church but he also has invested himself in trying to make Durham a better place to live. He has served in a number of different volunteer capacities in civic organizations hoping to make a difference in this city that he has spent his whole life in.

8. He is great story teller – If you are around Bobby for any length of time at all you know that he tells a great story. And his whole body gets involved in the telling of the story. He has great facial expressions and voice inflection when he gets going and make you feel as if you were there when the story happened. A part of his being a great story teller is having a great sense of humor. He probably makes me laugh more than anybody that I know. And he’s especially funny when he’s telling a story on himself. Like the RAT story in Haiti. Like the Lindsay story in Fondwa.

9. He is passionate about life – This is probably evident from some of the other stuff that I have said. I love the passion that oozes out of him as he pursues life. Whether deer hunting or announcing Riverside football games or cooking a pig or leading a finance meeting or teaching Sunday School or rooting for the Blue Devils or any number of other things – he is able to articulate and demonstrate passion in all things.

10. He knows EVERYBODY! – I’ve gotta figure that my six degrees of separation are greatly enhanced because I know Bobby. If I need to know somebody, Bobby is a great contact to have because of all the people he knows. Not just knows about them, but knows them. And is considered a friend by most of them. Indeed, Bobby Salmon is a GREAT friend to have. But don’t just take my word for it, here are what some of his other friends say:

“He got us in DORAL!  He is a Haiti Warrior. He is the Enforcer. When he speaks not only does everybody listen they hop to. Finally, he is another David, he has a heart after God.” Rodney H.

“Bobby is a friend who can always be counted on to help you in whatever way he can.  He also cooks a very good pig.” Tony B.

“Bobby Salmon is one friend that guys in ministry cherish as a guy who is never wavering and always on time with words of encouragement.” Don C.

“Bobby is a gifted servant-leader who is willing to stand, speak, move forward, and take the heat.  He doesn’t need recognition or the spotlight.  And – he cooks good!!!” Marc F.

Happy birthday Big Bob! Thanks for being a great friend!

Defining Moments in My Life (Part 1)

All of us have some significant moments or events that define our lives. Here are the first 3  of mine.

My parents divorce – I was 6 years old. I was living in Columbia, SC. When my folks split up my Mom moved my brother and I 60 miles away to the town of Aiken, SC. This had several repercussions upon my life. 1) Columbia was where the Jewish roots of my family was located. By moving away it essentially guaranteed that I would not be raised Jewish. 2) It meant also that I would be raised without the influence of a father. Both of these were very significant.

An invitation to church – When I was in the 9th grade my best friend and next door neighbor invited me go with him to his church youth group. The appeal was that the group was doing fun things like going on beach trips and places like Six Flags. There was also a girl that went to the group that I liked. So I started going and found out that I enjoyed it. Thus began my learning about what Christianity was all about. Never underestimate the power of a simple invitation or how God might use it.

My decision to become a Christian – I was 16 years old. I had been confronted with the gospel. I understood that  my sinfulness had separated me from the God who created me. I understood that God had sent His Son Jesus to pay the price that my sin demanded so that reconciliation could take place. I understood that not only had Jesus died so that I might live but that He rose from the dead to prove that He had the power to forgive sin and to offer eternal life to those who were committed to Him.  I understood that I needed to express my commitment through an act of faith that would demonstrate my confidence and trust in Him. So I prayed and told God of my neediness and asked Him to rescue me from my own sin and to restore me to a right relationship with Him. Even though I did not understand all that this meant at the time, it would prove to be THE most defining moment in my life.

The next 3 or 4 will follow in a later post.

10 More Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Me

  1. I was raised by my Mom. My folks split up when I was 6. My dad died when I was 13.  My Mom did a terrific job of giving my brother and I a healthy home environment while balancing being a single mom and working. She is one of the most caring people that I know and her compassion for others had a huge impact toward my becoming a pastor.
  2. My favorite musical artists growing up included The Doobie Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Chicago, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot , and Linda Ronstadt. The first album I ever owned was Jim Croce’s Life and Times.
  3. The first time that I told my wife that I loved her was in New Orleans on one of the Tulane University quads. I played guitar and sang her a Jim Croce song:” I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song”. She continued to date me even after hearing me sing.
  4. My first car was a red Toyota Corolla named Lionel. I developed a habit from the very beginning of naming my cars. Good memories of Percy, Wilson,  and on down the line to Edgar my Ford Edge truck that I have and love today. My theory was that if I treated them personally that they would treat me well. I have not been disappointed.
  5. I have memorized at different times in my life 2 entire books from the New Testament: 1 John and 1 Peter. While I can’t recite them back now, the exercise of hiding God’s Word in my heart by committing to memory extended passages of Scripture has proved invaluable through the years. I highly recommend it as a spiritual discipline if you want to maximize your growth potential.
  6. I was a member of a fraternity when I was In college – Sigma Alpha Epsilon. I was not really a fraternity kind of guy but since I went to a school knowing absolutely no one it was a good way to meet a lot of people quickly and have a place to belong. 30 years later I only stay in contact with 1 of my frat brothers.
  7. I grew up in a little town called Aiken, SC and went (at the time) to the only public high school there: Aiken High School. Aiken was a wonderful place to grow up. I have such great memories of the 14 years I spent there and still stay in contact with a bunch of the people that I graduated with.
  8. I picked up several hitch hikers when I was young but I have only tried to hitch hike one time myself. My buddy Wallace McNair and I were in southern France traveling after college graduation and we missed the last train out of Monte Carlo that would take us back to our hotel in Nice. We tried to snag a ride but no one would pick up two young hoodlums from America.
  9. I roofed houses for 6 months after I graduated seminary. In the cold of winter (25degrees) and the heat of summer (90+ degrees). This helped me to hear from God as to what kind of ministry to pursue. Mostly I knew that I didn’t want to be a roofer. It also gave me a great appreciation for everyone who works in the construction industry. That is hard work.
  10. I have been in pastoral ministry for 27 years (22 as a youth pastor). I have only been in 2 churches and have been blessed to serve under two great pastors. When people ask me how I have been able to be successful as a pastor I usually reply, “I stayed.” It is certainly not because of great giftedness – I have just hung around long enough to have an influence. Too many people in ministry don’t (in my humble opinion.)

10 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Me

  1. I LOVED baseball growing up – huge NY Mets fan. Woke my daughter up in 1986 at 1 am when they staged their miracle comeback against the Boston Red Sox. Went to the All Star Game in Detroit in 1971. Saw 6 future Hall of Famers hit home runs: Clemente, Aaron, Bench, F.Robinson, Killebrew, Jackson. Reggie Jackson launched a shot that almost went out of the stadium.
  2. I met my wife in Galveston, Texas on a beach project with Campus Crusade for Christ that neither of us were supposed to be at – but that God made happen.
  3. My undergraduate degree is in Biomedical Engineering. I use it everyday as I do pastoral work.

    Zermatt, Switzerland
  4. I was the spelling bee champ of the 5th grade. To this day it drives it me crazy to see a word spelled rong.
  5. I have had facial hair since 1980. A friend of mine and I traveled around Europe when we graduated from college and grew mustaches. I haven’t shaved mine since.
  6. My first job was working in a Baskin Robbins while in high  school. I learned to make a fantastic banana split.
  7. At a youth camp in West Virginia about 12 years ago I jumped over  7 standing people in a line at one time. I think Jason Palmer was one of them.
  8. The BEST steak I have ever had was at a restaurant in Bratislava, Slovakia called The Three Musketeers.
  9. The most beautiful place that I have ever traveled to is Zermatt, Switzerland. I’m going to take my bride there one day soon.
  10. I was at the 1978 Super Bowl in New Orleans, La when the Dallas Cowboys (with Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett) beat the Denver Broncos. To get into the game I scalped a ticket outside the stadium for $50. Do you know how much it costs to go to a game nowadays?

(and one bonus…)

  • My favorite golf tournament is The Masters. I grew up 20 miles from the course and have probably been to the tournament 30 times. When I was a kid I managed to get Jack Nicklaus’ autograph 3 times.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

I’ve been a fan of The Far Side cartoons for a long time. Of course the question behind the question in this cartoon is “Why did the chicken cross the road?” But what if it was me standing there instead of the chicken – what would MY question be? Here are a few that came to mind as I started pondering on this:

  • Why should I seek to live a holy and blameless life?
  • Why should I work at developing an intimate relationship With God?
  • Why should the motivation of everything I do be “will this be pleasing to the Lord?”
  • Why should I very loosely hold on to the material possessions that I have and presently enjoy?
  • Why should I be intentional about serving others and living a sacrificial life?
  • Why should the advance of the gospel be the focus of my ministry?

So why do I need a reason to do any of these things? The reason has already been given. Christ gave his life as a ransom to pay a debt that I could not pay on  my own. Were it not for His sacrificial death on the cross I would be doomed to live a life without an eternal purpose and doomed to die without knowing the One who created me and rescued me. However, because of what He has done for me I am destined for “the other side” and that is reason enough. The only real question at this point is “Will I be a chicken… or will I be a courageous servant of the Most High God?”

 

Life Verses Part 2

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

So back to that passage again that I love so much. I want to write about those two bold words above… “and hope.” I don’t think that this was just wishful thinking on Paul’s part. Wishing that perhaps he might in no way be ashamed. I think there was a certainty about his hope. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for.” There is a certainty about biblical hope. A certainty that is rooted in the foundational event of biblical Christianity – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul had an unshakable hope because he had an unshakable certainty in his future. Listen to some of the things he says about “hope.”

  • 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
  • I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you… Ephesians 1:18
  • To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
  • That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10
  • 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
  • Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
  • Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

(I realize there is some debate as to whether or not Paul is the author of the book of Hebrews)

Hope is a wonderful thing. I’m not sure how people can live without hope. At least live intentional and purpose-filled lives. If for some reason you are feeling hopeless (without hope)  – then I encourage you to think on these verses and let God begin the process of filling you with a hope that will transform you and give you a life and a future that you can be excited about.

Without Faith

One of the great chapters in Scripture is Hebrews 11. It gives example after example of men who walked the walked and talked the talk – of men who genuinely lived by faith. Verse 6 says:  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” What does it mean to live by faith day in and day out? I was pondering this a few years ago and wrote a song that helped me to think about the practical implications of living by faith. (I know, I know – you didn’t know that I was a song writer. You probably also don’t know that I am a poet) What would it be like if believers lived by faith in everything they do? How would it change us? How would it change the church? How would it change the world? I’m gonna try ( by the power of the Spirit) to intentionally live by faith – I’m gonna need your help. Feel free to ask me about anything you see me doing – is it faith generated and how so. Here’s the song, enjoy!

WITHOUT FAITH

Faith is the assurance of the things you’re hoping for;

Faith is when you act upon the facts you can’t ignore;

Faith is when you wait upon the future that’s in store;

Faith is when you pray because you’re in a holy war.

Refrain:

And without faith it is impossible

To please our God who set us free

And those who say that they love Jesus

Must live and follow faithfully

Faith is when you stand against the fears that are within;

Faith is when you’ve fallen down but rise to stand again;

Faith is when you boldly stand beside a fallen friend;

Faith is when you stand alone while others choose to sin. (Refrain)

Faith is when you’re watching for the coming of the King;

Faith is when you lose your grip on all your worldly things;

Faith is when you’re not afraid of what tomorrow brings;

Faith is when you feel depressed but still you choose to sing. (Refrain)

Ode to Disc Golf

It’s been about a year since I have been soundly converted from a regular golfer to a disc golfer. Here are some reasons why I love the sport of disc golf:

Cost is minimal – All you need is one disc to play and a disc only costs about $15. There is no green fee or charge to play a disc golf course. Now admittedly most serious DGers have a bag full of discs but still for under $100 you can get years of play in. Contrast this with golf golf where an average green fee is around $50 for one round.

Takes about an hour – When I played the other kind of golf it was at least a half day event. 4-5 hours for a round was minimal. I can play a round of DG in about an hour if I am playing with one other person – 40 minutes if I play by myself.

Good exercise – Everybody says that walking is good exercise. The course that I generally play on has some hilly terrain so I feel like I am exercising when I play. I had gotten to the point where I almost always rode a cart with golf golf – not much exercise in that.

Fun way for guys to hang out – Guys don’t do good just sitting down over coffee and talking. They need to talk while being distracted by other stuff so that they don’t feel like they HAVE to talk. This is the great thing about DG. Guys can play together and find out about each other’s lives without the pressure of trying to keep a conversation going.

Hole in one – I played golf golf for 40 years and not once did I ever have a hole in one. I have been playing DG for about a year and already I have one hole in one under my belt. Pretty thrilling I must say.

My sons enjoy it – All 3 of my sons enjoy the game and we have a good time playing together. We actually started an annual Reyner Christmas Championship – Scott is the reigning champion.

I can be competitive – When I first started playing I would shoot about +18 for a round. Now I expect to be par or better. My best score to date is -5. And I feel like I can beat anyone I play I with on any given day. It usually doesn’t work out that way but at least I feel like I have a shot. Not bad for an over 50 guy.

Close to home – My home course is only 7 minutes away from my house. I love the fact that I can be at the course so quick.

Play year round – I would never play golf golf if the temperature was under 45 degrees. I can play DG all year. Last year I was out playing when it was 22 degrees. Just throw on a couple layers of clothes and I’m good to go.

Gives me something to ask for for Christmas – I never know what to ask for for Christmas or my birthday. Now that I’m playing DG I can always ask for a new disc that I want to try out. It’s something I will enjoy and an inexpensive gift for someone to buy.

So there you have it. So if you are reading this and have a sudden hankering to try the game out then give me a call. I’d love to get in a game with you and show you why its such a great sport.

%d bloggers like this: