Terry Rush Retires Today

Terry Rush and Me in November 2015

The news is that Terry Rush is retiring after 40 years as Senior Minister at the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma today. Like thousands of others, I mostly knew Terry via the International Soul Winning Workshop as I attended over the past three decades. Terry came to town to tell us about Jesus and he did so with such passion and energy!

How many years did we go dragging to Tulsa Workshop wondering if we should continue in ministry and return home with the flame reignited! Terry Rush is one of those who continued to keep us aflame with the love for Christ and his mission to love and save humanity.

I’ve always admired Terry for his easy way of talking to strangers, reaching out to celebrities, and being a sports icon at St. Louis Cardinals. Surely you are already reading his blog regularly (LINK).  His books and film series have been a gift to the brotherhood of Christians who follow him.

Surely this is a bittersweet day for our brother, but I know he will receive many well-deserved accolades. His heart for ministry is so vivid in something he wrote on his Facebook page a few days ago:

Great days are ahead. Provision from God will be over the top. But today…and a few days ahead I will continue to cry. It’s within these tears of loving NOW that I will use them as telescopes to see the future wonder. I’m not thinking the fun stuff is over. I never have. So if you wouldn’t mind, I will cry just a bit….no….quite a bit. I’m the luckiest man I ever met…really.

This is the last Sunday of his ministry on staff at Memorial, but certainly not the last day of his influence for Christ. I’ve been blessed with many mentors and influencers in ministry and Terry shines brightly on that list. I just want to say to Terry, I love and appreciate you. You can’t know how much your outreach to me has meant … after Katrina… after the death of our son… after all.

I asked a few friends if they might want to join in with the RushFest today. Here’s what they had to say to Terry:

I have learned much from Terry, most of all that God can work in special ways with those who open themselves for His use. – Carl Ferril, St. John, Kansas

Thank you for the blessing you have been to the brotherhood! – Danny Dodd, North Little Rock, Arkansas

When I was putting my book, A Common Bond, together, Terry was one of the preachers I reached out to. I knew his wisdom and encouragement would be a blessing for others desiring to proclaim the Good News. I’ll never forget how he told me that for years he preached for the Church of Christ but then one day he decided to preach for the Christ of the Church. I love that and think of it often when writing or counseling. Thank you Terry for the influence you’ve had on me and countless others. – Paula Harrington, Calvert City, Kentucky

Terry was instrumental in helping me discover and understand “grace” theologically and practically. – Douglas Young, Teague, Texas

Terry encouraged me when I wanted to give up, he gave me wisdom when I needed it most. – Trent Tanaro, Spearman, Texas

I grew up in Tulsa, but didn’t worship at Memorial, however I heard Terry every year at the Workshop. I’ll never forget when he spoke to a couple hundred soon to be 5th graders about being leaders at our schools. I got his baseball card there, and thought he must be the coolest preacher ever. Terry loves all people and especially ministers. He has been and continues to be an encouragement to my family. He will visit and listen to any young minister seeking advice. He is a preachers preacher. – Chris Rampey, Stuart, Oklahoma

Though we had never met, Terry reached out to me at the very lowest point in my years of ministry. He offered me simple but sincere encouragement. He told me he was praying for me…and I knew he meant it. I have seen him to be a man of grace, even showing kindness to those who treat him spitefully. – Tim Parish, Lebanon, Tennessee

Terry’s smile was always infectious; his preaching style and antics endearing. More than anything, Terry has always been a breath of fresh air and extraordinary encouraging. I have been blessed by him and his ministry. – Les Ferguson, Jr., Ridgeland, Mississippi

Terry is Love. Kindness. Gentle. And, Faithful. He is above all, God’s man who listens to his Father continuously through the rough waters and the calm seasons. Terry is a preachers pastor. He offers help to the weary, beaten down, on the end of the rope preacher. Terry may be retiring from the weekly preacher duties, but I can assure you, he will continue to inspire countless thousands every day, whether it is his blog or simply seeing someone in the community where he lives. Terry is the face of Jesus! – Brian McCutchen, Sparta, Tennesee

When I think of Terry, the word “generous” comes to mind. He is always giving…always pouring himself out to people that many of us would never have noticed. The fruit of his ministry will last for generations as Terry has invested in so many people in such a selfless way. We owe our brother Terry a debt of gratitude. – Matt Dabbs, Auburn, Alabama

Terry brings to mind, for me, the verse that goes, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) He seems to know what to say, and how to say it, and when. – Keith Brenton, Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I think of Terry I think of the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy patience, gentleness are embodied in this servant of the Lord. I am so grateful to have been blessed by him from the time I was a student in the late 1980s to the present. We are all better because the Lord sent us this gift. His life has been an offering to the glory of the Father and we have reaped the rewards. Thank you Terry. – Bobby Valentine, Gunnison, Colorado

I’m sure this doesn’t do more than scratch the surface of heartfelt thanks and warm regards for a brother we all hold in high esteem. I love you and your family, Terry. New adventures ahead!

Thanks for reading, JD.

Goodbye Judy

Eddie and Judy Lewis

When I graduated from Magnolia Bible College in 1985 I moved 8 miles west from Ruleville, Mississippi to Cleveland. I worked for the Cleveland Church of Christ as a Campus Minister at Delta State University and as the Youth Minister for the church. The preaching minister at the time was Eddie Lewis. As a 21 year old recent college graduate with a new job I really thought I knew a lot. What I didn’t know was that I had stepped into a goldmine of mentoring under the influence of Eddie and Judy Lewis.  They were a marvelous team as they reached out to others in the church. It took me a while to realize this, but as I look back now I can see God’s hand in having me in their shadow and gaining life and ministry lessons from them that still serve me today. I think as long as I live I’ll always hope to be the kind of man that Eddie is. This is even more vivid as I’ve watched over the past six years as he has cared for his wonderful wife Judy as she traveled down the darkening road of dementia. But that was not the Judy that I knew.

Judy was perceptive. When you talked with her she often unearthed a perspective or feeling that you had not identified yet. This served her well as a counselor both in a professional setting and in informal conversations.

Judy was compassionate. Like most compassionate people, Judy had lived through a lot of her own heartache and troubles in life. I often marveled at how someone who had so much to deal with early in life could be such a sunny and bright person. She genuinely cared about the person in front of her, no matter who they were.

Judy was funny. She had a ready easy laugh – and if I can say this in a kind way – she was at times loud and vivacious!  Fun to be around because of her great sense of humor and desire to bring happiness to others, Judy had some (searching for words here) funny voices with which she would express things that brought many a smile. I can remember funny games that Eddie and Judy led at gatherings that had everyone in stitches.

Judy was unafraid. If there needed to be a hard conversation, she was ready to have it. It would be done with class and kindness. But it would happen – and often with a good resolution because of her determination to iron out anything that had created an issue. In addition, they ministered in a time when very few couples were doing marriage enrichment seminars for churches where both the husband and the wife spoke. These were tricky waters to navigate but they both cared about the family and withstood criticism from some in order to help the most.

It was during the time I was in Cleveland when an unexpected issue developed between my father and me. It was something I couldn’t do anything about. At the time I was still single and didn’t have the blessing of a spouse to lean upon. Depression settled in and I needed help. Eddie and Judy were there to be a blessing to me … a light in my darkness.

When the Lewis’ moved from Cleveland to Greenville and then on Germantown, they left behind friends and admirers who were impacted by their positive and uplifting ministry.

That’s why today, the day of Judy’s funeral, there are people all over Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana who are wistful today as they ruminate over memories of Judy. Her daughters and their families have endured a terrible loss. If there is any comfort it comes from two things…

Judy lived life to the fullest, a woman of faith and family, leaving a heritage her family can be proud of.

Judy is released from the darkness of memory loss into the brightness of God’s caring presence.

Until we meet again, goodbye Judy. God’s blessings and comfort to Eddie, Angelia and Christie and families.

Obituary for Judy Lewis

Thanks for reading, JD

What Mike Riley Taught Me About Leadership

On February 25, 2017 my friend Mike Riley won his valiant thirty year battle with cancer and went to be with the Lord. I learned so much about life and discipleship from my friend and elder Mike. Among the many things I learned from Mike were a number of lessons about leadership. I can only relate to Mike in terms of our common connection at the church. I don’t know how he functioned in other settings, but I expect others had similar experiences with him in the various groups in which he was involved.

Early every Tuesday morning the elders of our church meet and pray together for the needs of those in our church and community of which we are aware. The empty seat at that table still catches my attention. In the Sundays since he was last able to worship with us I have missed seeing him in his second row seat beside Mignon, his rock, inspiration, and lifetime love. In his roles in public life Mike demonstrated some wonderful habits of leadership that I not only want to remember but to emulate. I can’t say that they originated with Mike, but he demonstrated them with excellence.

*SMILE AND BE FRIENDLY. I can’t think of many more admirable qualities than to be able to smile and bring out the smiles in others. Mike had a ready smile and easy laugh. This served to diffuse any tension in the air and gave everyone permission to relax. Anyone meeting Mike for the first time would quickly feel that they had gained a friend. Truthfully, they had.

*SHARE OUT OF YOUR PAIN. Mike’s decades-long battle with cancer gave him a sharp eye for loving and serving others who had cancer. I don’t know how many of Dr. Amy Givler’s books he gave away to those who were just starting down that road. When he found out some acquaintance had cancer, they got a personal visit from him. I know that those people praised God for his compassion and care by the time he walked out of their door. He became a presence of hope and comfort as he pointed the way to THE source of eternal hope and peace. His pain became an invitation to a fellow journeyman down a difficult road.

*NEVER GIVE UP. Mike was a tenacious believer in following through with the things you really believe in. Mike wasn’t one to ditch an idea because he ran into a tough spot. He was one to think up new approaches and was willing to try another way. Mike didn’t give up on people, even when they struggled. He didn’t give up on his dreams to see Forsythe Church of Christ become a great(er) church. He never gave up on praying for others. He never let his health issues cause him to give up (at least when I was observing… I’m sure he had his moments in private).

*DON’T GET STUCK ON ONE THING. It may have been more about his personality, but Mike was interested in so many different things. He was socially involved in several clubs and organizations over the years. Aside from the fact that he grew up in Monroe, I think most everyone in town knew him because he had served alongside them in some capacity or another. His interests were varied and that put him in contact with many people he otherwise would not have been able to influence.

*LOVE YOUR MINISTER. It was my pleasure to be Mike’s preacher for the last nine years of his life. Like anyone else, I always appreciate encouraging words about my work. I could tell that Mike put some thought into the things he would say about my sermons. It would have been OK for him to say, “that was a good sermon, John”. Instead he has said, “I can tell you put a lot of preparation into that message – you always do.” If he could, Mike always set down what he was doing if I asked to meet with him or called him on the phone. Mike truly made me feel like I was a very important person. He was so good at valuing my opinions and concerns.

Mike, Mignon, and Keith Roberts at Area Wide Singing August 2010

*PAY ATTENTION TO THE TIME. Mike was committed to make sure we started on time at church.  It could be that this was just a habit of his. I appreciated his timeliness because it added to his reputation of dependability. If he told me he was picking me up at a certain time, he would be a few minutes early. If he ran late, he called. It was a matter of being a man of his word and also considerate of others. 

*DEFLECT AND PASS ALONG CREDIT. It wasn’t hard to complement Mike Riley, but he seldom allowed it to settle on him. He would either deflect the complement as too much or he would pass along credit. If you complimented him you would most likely hear him begin to brag on his wonderful wife Mignon and give her the credit. Sometimes he would remember that it was his dad that taught him something important that led to the compliment. If you thanked him for his work in the eldership of our church he would point to the other elders with whom he served and share the love. 

*SHOW UP.  It was crucially important to Mike to show up. If you had a surgery, he showed up (often with Mignon) to pray for you in the prep room before the surgery actually took place. I had never heard of being present in that space before I became the minister at Forsythe. I found out that it is a cold and scary place, just before going under the knife. Of course Mike knew that from his own surgeries. I also remember on a miserable day with rain pouring out of the sky, Mike and Mignon and Ronnie and Billie Teague took the three hour drive to the Lehrton Cemetery in Ruleville, Mississippi and sat with us while our son was buried. We had only known them a few months, but he showed up. He always did.

I’m sure I can think of more over time but these are the ones that are so vivid in my mind. His absence is an enormous part of my life.  I’m certain it is much more so in the lives of his beautiful family. He left a legacy of hope, faith, and love that remains strong in my memories. Those memories challenge me to be a better leader, Christian, and friend. 

Thanks for reading, JD.

 

 

 

When We Met Frank and Linda

I  know that when people hear me start in on Katrina stories they do their best to hide their expression that says “Oh no, not again!” I understand. But I have a reason to revisit this story. 

Katrina hit August 29, 2005. Unforgettable date for anyone who lived there at the time. Our home was flooded but also our church building just a block away. There were several people who worked hard at the church building to clean up. There was no power…it was late August… hot and nasty work. And of course we were thinking about when we might be able to gather as a church again. One day I went out back and there was a red and white tent set up. It was a total surprise to me, and a welcome one. David White at one time had been a deacon at Orange Grove Church of Christ in Gulfport was now a deacon at Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville where he and his family lived. David, as I understand it, was doing relief work on the Coast and had the tent set up.

The next Sunday we had folding chairs and had tried to pass the word around as best as we could that we would have a time of worship. No one had cars (they had flooded) and there was no electricity… no cell towers for calls … so we didn’t know who would be there. People from the surrounding neighborhood walked up to the tent for worship. It was quite an experience. Later we stored all kinds of supplies under that tent and people would drive by and tell us what they needed and we would put it in their trunk. 

David wasn’t through helping us and in time arranged for my family to come to Nashville to visit with a missions committee and perhaps to speak to the Brentwood Hills church about what we were doing. That was a rare privilege, as it was impressed on me that they do not usually allow basically unknown guests to get up like that. Thanks to David and the leadership there we were able to share the mission on the Coast. We also enjoyed a wonderful reception the night before. We stayed in the home of another Deacon, Frank Shelton.

(As an aside, it was also on this trip that I met another amazing person, Joe Dudney, which I wrote about HERE.)

Frank and Linda were wonderful hosts. They were very warm and inviting and we felt at home. Frank showed an interest in John Robert and showed him a prized Mustang convertible he had. We took some pictures in it and then Frank took us on a drive through the Lipscomb University campus. It was so much fun and quite a reprieve from the hard work going on back on the Coast. The Sheltons had a condo on Kentucky Lake and told us we could stay there anytime it was available. We did that once, and it was a beautiful time away.

Over the years Frank kept in touch via email and shared with me some of the mission works that were close to his heart. I knew that he was battling lung cancer for the past few years. Last night Frank won his battle and now is with the Lord. I don’t think any of us know exactly how God has things worked out on the other side, but I hope that Frank and John Robert can take a spin in a Mustang again. 

In the rubble of our post-Katrina world there were many bright encouragers. Frank and Linda, and David, shine strongly through those dark days because they loved with the love of the Lord. 

Here are the arrangements for Frank Shelton’s service:
Visitation will be held at Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday, June 23rd from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 24th from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. The funeral service will be held at Brentwood Hills Church of Christ on Saturday, June 24th at 2:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:
Union Health Foundation, Frank and Linda Shelton Scholarship Fund
Union Health Foundation
1606 North 7th Street
Terre Haute, Indiana 47804
OR

Brentwood Hills Church of Christ (memo: in memory of Frank Shelton) for
the Bright Angels Christian Academy in Oduwo, Kenya.
Brentwood Hills Church of Christ
5120 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37220

or by visiting: brentwoodhills.org

There was an Army of Volunteers. I See that Frank and Linda are on this partial list of people who helped us. (LINK)

Thanks for reading. JD

Goodbye Jackson

A week ago all was normal in our household. Then one morning Jackson the dog didn’t want to get out of his kennel. This is very unusual because the morning routine begins by going outside, coming in for the morning snacks, then going back out again. It’s been this way for a long time. But not that day. Eventually he came out and wandered around outside. He came in and laid in his bed – without a snack. I figured something was wrong and maybe he just needed some time to let it pass.

Throughout the day Jackson was more lethargic than usual, never eating. So the next morning when he wouldn’t come out of his kennel I took him to the vet. He has been there for a few days now. He’s not going to come home.

We had theories at first about what he might have eaten outside that caused the issues he was facing. He did eat a lot of buds and leaves off of a hibiscus bush. Was that the culprit? I theorized he may have eaten off of the oleander in the back yard, but the vet said it would have likely killed him quickly – and the bitter taste does not encourage eating. So I don’t think that was it. Significant liver damage is the ultimate reason. The cause? I don’t know. Maybe it’s been coming for a while and just now showed up … or the hibiscus was the last straw. It doesn’t matter. Our hearts are broken to say goodbye to our furry friend.

You can read about the day we suddenly and without preparation decided we wanted to bring him home HERE. That was in March of 2009. Kind of unusual, the way we came across him. He won us over quickly. Here’s a picture of Maggy and Jackson before we got back in the car with him.

I don’t think I ever told anyone this. And if it’s too weird for you, I understand. We found Jackson on March 21, 2009. On May 21, 2009 we were mourning the loss of our son one year ago that day. I know perhaps it’s not theologically sound, but I have always believed that maybe John Robert asked the Lord to lead us to such a puppy as Jackson. It was all so sudden and unexpected … but I do think one of Jackson’s purposes in life was to bring some comfort and healing to our broken hearts. From day one he was so mild mannered, loving, and sweet natured. Whenever we reached to pet him, he always winced down, as if someone had hurt him in the past. Maybe we were a comfort and healing to his broken heart as well.

Today it’s our tears that fall. He has been at the vet’s now for three days on an IV drip with no real improvement and some signs that his liver is not functioning. When we arrived at the vet this afternoon, his breathing was ragged and the fluid in his system causing each labored breath to rattle. To keep him alive would be to prolong his suffering and actually let him live long enough to increase it. We won’t do that to our sweet puppy. For eight years he has trusted us to take care of him and we have done pretty well. We will fulfill our duty to him and send him into the next world. Yes, I do believe that God gave us pets to enjoy in this world, so why not the next?.

I have shared that graphic with others who have lost their pets, so I suppose it is fitting to share it here for us. We are grateful (and amazed) at so many people who were praying for Jackson, and thus for us. Thank you.

We have developed patterns of life that relate to Jackson being in our house. We come by the house a few times each day to let him out.  We board him when we go on trips. We have a schedule of feeding him. At night when it’s time to go to bed it is my duty to get him to come and get in his kennel. For the past few months he hasn’t wanted to get out of his bed in the den to come…I’ve had to pick him up and get him out of the bed. I have though he was just wanting me to pet him a little before heading to bed, but now I wonder if this illness wasn’t coming on. We’ll never know. But usually he’ll follow me down the hall and get in his kennel for the night. He’ll use his nose and paws to arrange the blanket the way he wants it to be (come to think of it, he hasn’t done that as much lately either).  And tomorrow we’ll start over. Except not this time.

This afternoon with the compassionate help of his veterinarian (who is as pained as we are I think)… we will send him to sleep for one last time in this life. It will be painless and he won’t be hungry or hurting any longer (he hasn’t eaten in four days).  I trust the Lord that He knows what to do with these ones we love so much.

Rest well, Jackson. You came along at just the right time in our life to bring us comfort and unconditional love. May you receive the same.

Thanks for reading, JD.

 

 

 

 

 

Tulsa Workshop: Melancholy Memories

Part of a crowd some time at Tulsa Workshop

I have to admit to being a bit melancholy. Today I got a notice in my email from a calendar entry. It’s time to go to Tulsa for the Tulsa Workshop. Only, the workshop is no more. Anyone who knows me well knows I live for this yearly family reunion and revival all rolled into one. I don’t blame the leaders for letting it go… the vital signs have been headed downward for a while now. But it’s hard not to miss this. And the truth is that there isn’t anything in the Spring within driving distance that can replace it.

There’s a temptation to kind of slosh through a lot of old memories at this point but I’ll spare you. I’ve written about the International Soul Winning Workshop  so many times (see some links below).

John Robert on a snowy day at Tulsa Workshop.

So many of my Tulsa memories are blended with memories of my family making the trek to Tulsa. Maggy, Nicole and John Robert and some of his friends would often go to the workshop. Can you imagine that John Robert  had no problem missing most of the week of school to go? He didn’t mind at all. And we didn’t either. We placed a high value on his education, but the spiritual experience of the workshop was of great value to us and to him. Even so, there’s a long list of names I associate with the workshop. Not just the speakers, but the friends that we would only see once a year. That was especially valuable in the days before Facebook! Do you remember those days? Barely.

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who helped make Tulsa Workshop the wonderful experience it was. Under the fire of critics and armchair quarterbacks, these men and women made sure it all happened. At the helm for so many years Marvin Phillips and Terry Rush led the way. I was in awe of them and I still am. We worshiped with such joy under the leadership of many, but none more than Jerome Williams and later Shane Coffman and those that sang with them. It felt healthy to see the older coaches step aside and see Wade Hodges and Shane Coffman and Jason Thornton assume the roles leading the workshop. I know each of them would recognize an army of volunteers and helpers but those were the faces we saw.

On those stages I heard some of the most amazing preaching I’ve ever heard. I would be wrong to try to list them – but I can’t help a little. In addition to Marvin and Terry are such memories. The night Stanley Shipp preached with such passion. Jimmy Allen made such a powerful speech under the influence of one of his well known headaches that he was interrupted several times … and some were unhappy with some things he said, but he said them with full assurance! I heard Richard Rogers’ last presentation at Tulsa. He died before the next workshop came around. Mid McKnight – oh I’m so glad I had a chance to hear him. Jeff Walling, how did he do that every-single-year? Jim McGuiggan said one of the most memorable things I’ve ever heard on a stage in the pavilion. Don DeWelt – thank God Marvin had the courage to tear down that wall and bring that brother (along with other Christian Church brothers like Bob Russell) to Tulsa. I still have a lot of tapes and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to put them to .mp3 so others can hear them.

Well now I’ve just started rambling with Tulsa memories so I’m going to close that down before this post gets out of hand. Yes, I’m a bit melancholy that I won’t be gathering with friends old and new and hearing the gospel with them … but I’m happy too. There are a lot of smiles and much warmth in the memories flooding my mind right now.

As I mentioned above here are some links to a few other posts where I talked about Tulsa Workshop on this blog in past years. Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your Tulsa memories in the comments if so moved.  JD

International Soul Winning Workshop – March 4, 2008

Sharing a Few Video Moments from Tulsa Workshop – March 29, 2008

Thursday in Tulsa – March 23, 2007

Friday at Tulsa – March 24, 2007

Tulsa and the Trajectory of My Faith Journey – April 8, 2014