38 Reasons

Today, Jeannie and I will celebrate our 38th anniversary. On June 14, 1980, Jeannie and I exchanged our vows. I was in love with her before we got married, and every day since, I have fallen deeper in love with her. So, for our 38th anniversary, I thought I’d give you 38 reasons why I love her.

  1. She has the prettiest brown eyes I’ve ever seen.
  2. She’s one of the few people that can make me laugh until coffee comes out of my nose.
  3. She’s a great mother to my sons.
  4. She’s a great grandmother to our granddaughters.
  5. Everyone likes me better when they meet her.
  6. She learned to say, “Roll, Tide, Roll.”
  7. She cooks a homemade lasagna and a homemade cheesecake every year for my birthday.
  8. She loved my parents, and now, she does a great job taking care of my mom.
  9. She raised our sons to take care of themselves. Both of our sons are neat freaks. They didn’t get that from me.
  10. She crinkles her nose like a little girl when she laughs.
  11. She prays for me.
  12. She won’t take any junk from me.
  13. She’s a fierce protector of our sons.
  14. She thinks our granddaughters are “dress up dolls” and buys countless outfits for them. Then, she’ll dress and undress each granddaughter just to see “how she looks in the outfit.”
  15. When she’s angry her eyes turn coal black.
  16. She looks great in jeans.
  17. She looks great all dressed up.
  18. She hums when she’s doing chores around the house.
  19. She tries to make me eat right.
  20. She modeled for our boys the kind of woman they should look for. Each of our sons married girls who had characteristics they liked best about their mom.
  21. She’s my best friend. Life isn’t as much fun if she’s not there to share it with me.
  22. She indulges my quirks.
  23. She has her own view of the world that challenges my assumptions about “how things should be.”
  24. She’s kind.
  25. She insists that I be kind.
  26. She brings beauty into my life.
  27. She takes care of our money.
  28. She makes sure we stay in contact with our friends.
  29. She knows when I need to be quiet and protects my time.
  30. She makes sure I get enough rest.
  31. She holds me accountable on my calendar planning and won’t let me over commit.
  32. She loves and ministers to the wives of our pastoral team.
  33. Our boys still call her when they’re sick.
  34. She brings color to my wardrobe. She won’t tolerate jeans and black polo shirts.
  35. She’s brutally honest.
  36. She loves the beach.
  37. She loves to read.
  38. She keeps me fascinated.

Okay, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. Let me add this before I leave: the biggest mistake of my life was not marrying Jeannie sooner. I really can’t imagine my life without her. Happy Anniversary, Jeannie! I love you!

Why I Reached Out to Bishop Walker

Bishop Joseph Walker III is one of the most impactful leaders and pastors in North America today. His books, social media engagement, and demanding preaching schedule have spread his influence from coast to coast. He’s funny, energetic, has a faith that’s been tested by fire, and he’s seriously committed to changing Nashville for the better with the power of God’s redeeming gospel.

He’s also one of my best friends. He’s also African American.

When people find out about our friendship, they want to know how we came to be friends, and honestly, when I tell them the story, they are a little disappointed.

It all started with a phone call. I called him. I wanted him to teach me about how he was using social media. If you follow Bishop Walker at all, you know he’s a social media ninja. He’s a master of using a variety of platforms to communicate his message to thousands of people—including Bible studies and prayer times that engage people from around the world.

I’m always looking for people who do things better than I do, and Bishop Walker did social media better than most people in America, especially me. I was hoping he could teach me a few things. We ended up meeting at a local Panera Bread, and we talked about how social media supported his ministry and expanded his preaching. Then, we talked about life, marriage, and what it meant to be a dad in these times. We talked about sports and politics, and before I knew it, we had become friends.

Then, we started talking about what it is like being black in Nashville. He tried to help me understand the systemic racism he and his congregation face every day. Nashville is a fairly progressive city. Our diverse culture of artists ensures that, but we’re still racist. Some things take a long time to address and heal. Racism is one of those things.

He told me how, when’s he’s leaving a local mall and finds himself walking behind a single white female, he will measure his steps so he doesn’t get too close to her and make her uncomfortable. The woman will be nervous and anxious when she realizes a black man is walking behind her in the parking lot. He’s learned to make sure there’s plenty of room between him and her. He gets pulled over if he’s in certain neighborhoods in his nice car. Why? Because it’s assumed that a black man in a nice car is selling drugs.

These experiences are true. These are the moments my friend has lived.

I’ve had him over to talk to my staff about racism in everyday life. My staff is still talking about the power of his testimony and teaching. Since then, our two churches have become partners. Mt. Zion and Brentwood Baptist have done several projects together. His friendship and grace have made our engagement easy and rewarding. His church is teaching my church how to do ministry better. We’re learning from each other and growing together.

As a result, several of our members have become friends with members of Mt. Zion. They’ve met for lunch. They’ve had dinner in each other’s homes. We’re learning about each other’s worlds and pulling them closer together.

I’m convinced more than ever that the church is going to have to take the lead in the task of racial reconciliation. Only the church has the message of forgiveness, the salve of grace, the gospel of a suffering Savior, and the power of His resurrection. The total gospel in all of its glory will be needed to address and heal racism in America.

I didn’t start out wanting to address the race issue in our nation. I wanted to know more about social media. I did learn about social media.

And I learned a lot more. I learned how subtle and devious racism can be in our country. I learned how this hurts our black brothers and sisters, and I have learned that sitting silently while this is going on is to be part of the problem. I can no longer be part of anything that hurts my brother.

You know my brother, don’t you? Bishop Joseph Walker III. When you see us together, you’ll be able to tell us apart. I’m taller.

Kindness is the Key

Do you remember the story of Abraham looking for a wife for his son, Isaac? The story is found in Genesis 24. A servant is given the task of going back to Abraham’s family and finding a young woman who would be suitable for Isaac. The servant, obviously overwhelmed by his assignment, begins to pray.

Do you remember what sign he told God he was looking for? Let the young woman not only draw water for me, a common and expected gesture of hospitality, but also draw water for my camels. Drawing enough water for tired and thirsty camels is certainly beyond what is to be expected in any culture, but that was what the servant asked for.

Why? Because he was looking for a woman who was kind.

Kindness? Really? Ask any single person about the person they’re looking to marry, and they’ll give you a long list.

Kindness won’t be on that list.

There will be a lot of descriptions of how the person will look, dress, or even the career they will have, but if kindness is on the list at all, it will be way on down the list.

Now, ask that same question to a couple that’s been married for a very long time, and kindness, if it’s not the first thing they say, will be near the top of the list. The long-married couple has learned some things about how marriage actually works day in and day out. The world would have us think we spend every day of our married lives in the throes of passion. We don’t. We spend most of our time taking out the garbage, getting the kids to school, washing clothes, going to work, and coming home again.

We spend most of our marriages in “like.” By that I mean we spend most of our time doing life together, and kindness—doing the little things that make the other person’s life easier—is one of those little everyday things that ends up making a big difference.

You don’t have to have a big house to be happily married. You don’t have to have a lot of money to be happily married. You do, however, have to have a lot of kindness to be happily married. The days get too long without it.

So, ladies, the guy you’re dating now, is he kind?
Guys, the girl you think is so beautiful, is she kind?
For those of you who are already married, are you kind to each other?

Ask any of us who’ve been married for a while (Jeannie and I will be married 38 years next month) and we’ll all tell you the same thing. You want to know the secret of a happy marriage?

“Be kind one to another.” It is, after all, in the Bible.

Theology of Abundance

According to the experts, regardless of what areas of concern, we are slowly but surely running out of everything. Our sun will burn out in a few million years, and we’ll be left on a cold, dark planet drifting in space. Our fossil fuels are approaching exhaustion. We’ll have to find new sources of power. There’s only so much time, so much food, so many places to live, and so many cars to drive.

In other words, you’d better get while the getting is good because soon there won’t be anything left to get.

Or so the world tells us.

And because the world tells us that we’re running out of everything, we develop a theology of scarcity. This theology of scarcity causes us to start grasping for things in our lives. We have to grab our stuff and hold onto it with our lives. Not only do we have to get our stuff, we have to keep others from getting their stuff. If someone else gets something, that means we can’t have it because there’s only so much to go around.

This of course leads to lives of pettiness, jealousy, shallowness, and frustration.

Yet, Jesus promised us life and life more abundant. A life characterized not by shortages, but by overflowing goodness and joy. How can this be true?

First, God loves you. Now, you’ll read that as “God loves everybody.” While that’s true, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Do you understand that God loves you? You. All by yourself you. He likes the way you’re put together. You were, after all, His idea. He likes the way you think, the way you laugh, and the friends you hang around.

He loves you—in particular you.

Because of that, every blessing He desires to give you is designed only for you. Your blessings won’t fit me. My blessings won’t fit you. He created us uniquely. He loves us uniquely. He blesses us uniquely.

Second, God never runs out of blessings. He’s eternal. That means He never changes. He’ll be as rich and generous tomorrow as He is today. You’ll never be empty handed in His presence. His goodness will always fill your life.

Now, just a quick warning. Being blessed doesn’t mean you get everything you want. Why? Because some of the things we want aren’t good for us. Why would God give you something that wasn’t good for you? We can trust God not only to be good and generous in our lives, but to also know us well enough so He won’t give us something that would hurt us.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. They’re not you. How God blesses them doesn’t have anything to do with how He blesses you. God created you uniquely, and He loves you the same way.