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On February 19, 2009

The imagination of Stetson Kennedy

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Right after World War II, America was in a pretty volatile time in it’s history. Different philosophies competed for prominence. We had just partnered with Communist Russia to defeat the Nazi’s and then had to fight communism during the Red Scare, gender roles were more vague than ever, and racial conflict was heating up.

Enter the black and white (literally) certainty of the Klu Klux Klan. The KKK was not just a marginal hate group, they were seen as a legitimate, respectable organization by many. And they were picking up steam. They boasted a couple of presidents as members during their history, and they had all the answers to the uncertain times.

To say the least it was scary.

The bigotry and hate that we fought in the Nazi’s was now rearing it’s head in the States. Some people estimate that the KKK was close to becoming the driving philosophy. And one guy was wise enough to see what was going on.

His name was Stetson Kennedy, and he did what anyone of us would have done. He joined the KKK. He started rising in the hierarchy, and eventually got to the rank of Kleagle, whatever that means. But what no one in the organization knew, was that Kennedy was funneling information, secret information, about the KKK to the outside.

And here’s where it picks up. Who could Stetson Kennedy get the KKK’s secrets to where it would really hurt them? The answer was obvious. Superman.

He actually started passing on secret codes, secret meeting protocol’s, secret handshakes, (does this seem like a glorified boys club to anyone else?) to the radio show “The Adventures of Superman.” The plan was that Superman would fight the KKK every week on his radio show. And it worked. By revealing the inner workings of the KKK to the kiddo’s he helped to show them how bad they really were.

The KKK dad’s started coming home hearing their kids talking about how Superman had destroyed the KKK leaders, saying their fiercely guarded secret’s at the dinner table, and men started to drop like flies out of the previously vibrant movement.

I bring this up because I think it illustrates the power of imagination.

Greg Boyd has a great book called “Seeing is Believing” in which he talks about how Western civilization has basically written off imagination as being something for children. And we are paying the price. Too often things are framed in terms of us vs. them, black and white, Democrats or Republican.

We are losing the ability to find an imaginative third way. But deep in our bones I think we know that these are not the only options. As one Iraqi medical worker said, “Violence is for those who have lost all creativity.”

I think this is what Paul is tapping into in Romans 4, where he talks about the way God operates in the world. Paul says, “He is the God who gives life to the dead, and calls things that are not as though they are.”

The history of humanity has been changed by men and women who saw that what was really needed was not more bullets or missiles, but a deeper imagination. It’s how Gandhi got rid of British occupation without ever firing a gun, it’s how Dr. King won civil rights for African American’s without starting a war.

And it’s how Stetson Kennedy and Superman took down the KKK.

On February 16, 2009

A Basket Case

Part of the problem that Christians are facing today is how we present the Bible to others. I have more to say about this next Monday, but I want to first point out what I think is the main problem. For the longest time, Christians, or at least Protestants, assumed what Luther called Sola Scriptura. That the Scriptures were the authority for us. We became known as people of the book.
One of the things that characterizes Post-modernism is a deep distrust for power or any absolute truth claims. At least that’s what the people who teach my classes say. But I’ve found that’s not always the case.

I have found that what they have distrust for is not meta-narratives or institutions but for those that have exploited, abused or excluded others. And while it’s true that the Bible has been used at points in our history to validate all these things, I think that the Christian gospel is uniquely capable of saying something to this.

Let me give you an example.

Remember before Paul was named Paul. He was actually named Saul. That’s always baffled me. Why would he change his name? Or really just one letter of his name? To the Hebrew a name was more than just a label, it was the essence of a person. That’s why if you want to know the emotional state of a woman in the Old Testament just look at what she names her kids. There are seriously kids who are named things which mean “I am depressed.”

Saul was no different. In naming their son Saul, his parents were plugging him to the story of Israel’s first king. A time when they were on top of the world, when they were well on their way of building a dynasty. David’s just around the corner, and they don’t even know what an exile is.

The name Saul was a symbol for Israel in their hay-day.

But then Saul goes to Damascus, meets the risen Jesus and everything gets turned around.

He becomes a Christian, and it says that Saul grew more and more powerful. But what kind of power is this? Because the very next part it says that some of the Jews tried to kill him, and so the other Christians lowered him down the city wall in a basket.

The great Saul of Tarsus, a prominent Rabbi, in good with the religious elite of the day is now a fugitive. He’s spent his entire life pressing up, climbing the religious ladder and now he’s headed the other direction. You wouldn’t think that this would be something you would want on your resume.

But you would be wrong.

Because one time, Paul is feeling backed into a corner by a church that he helped to plant. They heard that he’s not a super-apostle. He can’t fit into the spandex. He’s not that impressive of a speaker. And Paul goes off.

He just starts bragging on himself. But about all the wrong things. He says that if he is going to boast he’s going to boast about his weaknesses. And he does, he has an impressive pedigree of failures, persecutions and weakness. And to cap it all off he tells this story:

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of
the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the
governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me.
But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.”

It was the moment where Paul realized that at the center of the gospel is a powerful weakness.

Do you know what Saul means in Hebrew? It means the one we asked for, like the King. But Paul means something else entirely, it’s Latin.

It means small.

It’s true that history is written by the winners, and meta-narratives and over-arching storylines can be used as power plays over others. But the Christian message holds up as the pinnacle of history a defeated Jewish carpenter. That’s our symbol of victory. It’s a different kind of power all-together. One that doesn’t Lord it’s authority over others, but finds the deepest power of all in serving them.

I’ve found that many people who have a problem with our claims of truth, don’t really get it because they haven’t really seen it. Looking at our history post-Constantine we have managed to turn an upside down message right-side up.

Recently I was on a plane flight and I asked my seat mate what he thought of when he thought of Christians. His immediate response was to place the movement of Jesus within a certain political ideology. And he wasn’t interested in being associated with that. But I wouldn’t want to follow that Jesus either. I have found that most people who have a problem with the God of Jesus, or the Scriptures don’t really have a problem with the Bible, but with how it has been used.

What I think the world is hungry for is a glimpse into a different kind of power of a different kind of God.

One that chooses mangers over thrones, and whose followers choose baskets over crowns.

On February 12, 2009

Immigration

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

You probably already know that these words from Emma Lazarus’ poem are written on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty. A statue that stands as something of a symbol for America.

So I recently finished reading the book of Deuteronomy, and one of the things that stood out to me, repeated over and over, was the command to care for the foreigner and alien among us. And the reason that God gives this newly founded community for doing this is because they too were once slaves and foreigners in Egypt.

Now by the time that people were reading this, not a single one of them had been brought out of Egypt. That was their ancestors. But God is reminding them of their heritage, how they were once strangers, needing help, in a strange land. In fact, God even commands a special ceremony in chapter 26, where people would go the the priest and declare, “My father was a wondering Aramean.” And then they would share their food and their money with the foreigners that they had among them.

I found myself reading this chapter over and over again. How could this be so prominent in the Scriptures and we never talk about this?

Immigration may not be a hot-button issue for you if you are in, you know, Topeka, but I live in Texas, and everyone has an opinion on this. And most of the opinions aren’t formed as an abstract idea, but because they, or someone they care about, lost a job to an immigrant who’s willing to do cheap labor. I have Mexican friends who have been deported, some who need health care, but can’t get it because they are not legal. I have friends who work long and hard days for next to nothing to send what little money they get back to their home country for their extended families survival.

I know there are a lot of layers to this problem.

So how does Deuteronomy speak to Fort Worth?

Because this seems like a weightier matter of the law.

One thing that struck me here was that God wants us to remember our own story. I remember finding out that my great grandfather’s great grandfather took a boat from Scotland. It seems like my father was a wandering Scotsman. So this isn’t a us vs. them issue, even though it may seem that way. When we discuss immigration, we have to realize that we are talking about a grace that was extended to our not so distant family. We too were once in Egypt.

Phyllis Tickle (whose name just has to make you smile) points out another layer to this discussion. She talks about how in the beginning of the 19th century, Chinese labor was the cheapest around. And the railroad companies exploited these immigrants, simultaneously laying off thousands of American manual workers. The backlash from this loss of jobs was so great that Congress eventually fully banned Asian immigrants. Seriously.

Our culture became devoid of Asian perspective, and the next three wars America was to fight was with Asian countries. Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Now this isn’t to say that these wars would have been certainly avoided, or that Mexico will soon attack the States. But there is something about shutting off from others, of closing our doors, that is destructive. That needs to be factored in when we talk about this. It’s a matter of National Security for our doors to be open to others.

Immigration isn’t just for “them,” it’s for “us” too.

I hate that this is seen as right or left political issue. I hate that churches are so silent about this issue, but are so vocal about such peripheral ones, ones that Scripture doesn’t even speak to.

Like I said I recognize that there are many moving parts to this discussion. But why aren’t churches leading the charge in the conversation? The church has pioneered the majority of great human rights movements in the past. Even to their own economic detriment. (Did you know that slave labor was the majority of England’s economic intake, and that the church offered and paid almost a half of their lost national income?) If something’s just wrong, economic forces have to take a back burner.

Is there an imaginative third way here?

What does it look like to remember our own story as foreigners in the context of feared job losses and economic down-turns?

What does it look like to wade into all the different nuances and layers of this problem because of a commitment to justice and obedience over other pressures, societal and economic?

On February 9, 2009

Future


Watch this video, then we’ll talk.

So I have been reading for the past couple of weeks for a series that I am co-teaching with Rick (my boss and senior preacher) next month. It’s been challenging, inspiring, depressing and exciting. We are looking at the how much the world is changing and how the way of Jesus looks and should look in a world that is moving so rapidly.

A couple of things stand out to me after a few weeks of reflection.

First, the church tends to be way behind the curve on innovation. That’s sad to me. It seems like we should be leading the charge in this. The resurrected Christ has opened to door to the re-creation of all things. And yet our communities of faith are some of the most stagnant places in culture.

Now I don’t want to be too hard on our churches, partly because the world is changing at an unprecedented rate. From globalization to the technological revolution, things aren’t like they were a hundred years ago. However, you can’t really tell that when you walk into many of our church buildings. I have been in too many churches that are one decade away from being a historical footnote.

Peter Gomes, a Harvard professor of religion, and a devout follower of Jesus, points out that churches are supposed to be engines of social and global change, instead we are bastions of conservativism. There is a kind of nostalgia that happens in a lot of churches, we develop the good ole days’ syndrome. We shut off what the younger generation is saying, while asking why they don’t want to be a part of what we are doing. Why is it that every generation seems to do to the next what they resented about the previous?

Second, this is partly the churches own fault. For the most part we have stifled or excommunicated our most creative people. It seems like, generally speaking, we have postured ourselves in a position of fear. Circle the wagons, head under the sand. One of the main problems with this is that this position is the exact opposite of faith.

We aren’t smoking what we are selling.

While this may seem harsh, I don’t mean it to be. There is plenty of despair and cynicism available today, I don’t want to add to that. I write this out of a great hope for the future of the movement of Jesus. We are in a time of open ended change and possibilities. What would it look like for the church to be herself in this time and place? The fact that many of my friends are turning to other forms of spirituality does not mean that the way of Jesus is deficient, but maybe it does reveal the poverty of how we talk about following Him.

For the next few Monday’s I am going to write about what I think it would look like to navigate the church in our changing climate. And I would like to get your input, since you have a computer, I assume that you are not oblivious to this.

So what do you think should/must change?

What must not change?

What will it look like to be the church for the coming generations? And how can we get there?

On February 5, 2009

Tuesday’s With Robbie

For the past year or so, I go on Tuesday afternoon’s to minister to guys in jail. It is one of the highlights of the week for me. I love being able to spend time with these guys who are so eager to transform their lives, and I love the opportunity of helping someone choose a different path.

One of those guys, I’ll call him Robbie, has shown me the power of the Gospel.

To hear Robbie talk about who he used to be, what he used to do, is shocking. You could not find two people more different. Robbie was the kind of guy that my parents warned me about growing up. I was home schooled, he didn’t finish school, I was segregated from black people, he was segregated from white people.

We were both taught to be afraid of each other.

This last Monday myself and another minister went to court to testify on Robbie’s behalf. He had gotten off for one charge, and could have gotten off on another. But, here’s the kicker, he wouldn’t plead not guilty for something he knew he was guilty of. He wouldn’t lie, even if it meant he could go home.

I told you he was changing.

And I sat in court and heard Robbie plead guilty to a charge that they might not have got a conviction for, and then he apologized to the city of Fort Worth.

I am not naive, I know that sometimes after people are released from court they go back to living their old lives. I know that Robbie will have hard times, and even be tempted. But he won’t be doing this on his own. Leslie and I, along with a few other friends, have gotten to know his family. We have developed a support system for Robbie, and when he gets out he has a mission.

See for the past year Robbie has been telling us what he wants to do with his life. He grew up in a gang. He rose to the top and became was a leader, people always looked to him for direction. And now he is going to give it to them. Robbie’s dream for his life is to end gang violence. He knows how destructive it can be. He got in a gunfight with a childhood friend just because they were each wearing different colors. He has a PH.d. from the university of messed up. He knows firsthand what systematic evil looks like.

But he has had an encounter with the risen Jesus, and he knows the power of God for his friends and family. And I think Robbie is going to change his world. He’s been reading up on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and how he went about communicating the power of non-violence.

I worry for Robbie, I worry that life as a changed man in an unchanged neighborhood might be harder than he expects. I worry that people might not accept his transformation as easily as those who love him. I worry that he’ll slip. But Jesus has transformed others in worse places than Him. It seems like God loves to choose people that others have written off, just to show how good He is.

To hear Robbie talk sounds like a contemporary version of the prophet Isaiah. He sees a day when the blood and crips are no longer enemies. A day when guns are traded in for diplomas. He’s enrolling in a seminary, and when he gets out he is going to put the gospel on display.

And one day I’ll be able to tell you his name.

* I took this picture Monday in the Courthouse at Tarrant County (I hope it’s not illegal to post it).

No matter what any book says.

I remember as a kid not really knowing what the sign on our church building meant. I knew that the people that were at that church, all ten of us, were kind people who cared deeply about scripture and obeying the Lord. But we did not all agree on what that looked like.

One of the men who preached would sometimes go on a tirade against women wearing pants in the church building. Ironically, this sermon was only done when there were women there wearing pants. Strangely enough, no woman ever responded to the invitation.

While I did not know much about our fellowship when I was young, my mom would tell me stories about how we started, what we were about, and why we where different. And to be honest it sounded so noble. The idea of being a part of a unity movement, where it did not matter if you disagreed on petty issues, we could unite around the reality of Jesus, that sounded really good.

Sure this was a bit more difficult in practice, people disagreed with one another, issues were raised, and women wore pants. But the idea still seemed like a good one.

Now that I have grown up, I still attend and work at a church of Christ. Sure, it’s different than the one I grew up at. For one thing it’s really, really big. It’s six flags over Jesus big. And for another thing we have a couple of services that have guitars. But we are still a church of Christ.

Or at least we thought we were.

Last week the directory of churches of Christ came out listing all churches in the U.S., and for the first time in my life I found myself in a church that was not listed in that book. This directory has always been intriguing to me. When I was young, I used to look up the ten person church that I went to just to make sure that we were in there. It gave us authority, made us legitimate.

Now a lot of talk has been going around about our exclusion from the directory, and the compilers told others that they did not mean this to be divisive, they just work for a cappella churches. There are a couple of reasons that this is crummy. First off, we still have an entirely acappella church, it’s actually around 2,350 people. It’s the biggest a cappella church in our fellowship. Second, we weren’t told about this move. No one let us know ahead of time that we were being excluded from the directory, we were not asked, nor did we want this.

Another problem is that there are plenty of disagreements within the churches listed in that directory. Lots of churches are listed that do not fellowship one another for a variety of reasons. Each of the distinct churches are marked with a special asterisks or notation.

For example, the church that I grew up in did not believe in Sunday School, a paid preacher, supporting children’s homes, and a variety of other common practices. We had more asterisks than a Barry Bonds record book.

But we were in there.

The reason that this matters, that I want to write about it all, is because of the volatile nature of the issue that is dividing us. About a hundred years ago the church of Christ fellowship divided because of this very issue. Now a hundred years later we are in the process of doing it again.

Richland Hills is not leading the charge for all churches to become instrumental. We believe that every church is autonomous. It has the freedom to make decisions for what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Jesus for that community and place. However, we also want to be a part of a broader fellowship.

In making the decision to not include us in the directory, it was not an innocent by-rule of the directory. It was a statement. They knew the crossroads that we, as a fellowship, are at. And they chose to draw a line that should not have been drawn. It would have been easy for them to denote that we, and 19 other churches, had a different worship style at a couple of services. But instead we were excluded.

Let me be clear on this, this post is not about instrumental worship. It’s about whether or not in one hundred years we have found bigger things to unite around other than the same old petty arguments. If a unity movement divides every time it is tested than the obvious conclusion is that we are not a unity movement.

There have been ugly moments in our history. We have sometimes been sectarian, sometimes legalistic, sometimes we have been known for being unkind and judgmental. I have been tempted several times over the past few years to leave the restoration movement, but I still remember mom telling me about the church of Christ movement as a beautiful thing. A movement of unity among people who did not agree on everything, but did agree on Jesus.

I still believe her.

It’s time to remember our better history.

On January 28, 2009

King of Kings

In 1st Kings there is this fascinating story about the King of Samaria, a guy named Ahab.

Ahab lives in a palace next door to a chap named Naboth. And Naboth owns a vineyard. The King wants to buy Naboth’s vineyard because it’s so close to his palace, and kings back then were lazy and didn’t want to walk very far.

Now it sounds pretty cut and dry right? He offers Naboth a really good deal for some land, Naboth should take it. But this land had been in his family for generations, and Naboth wasn’t selling.

So King Ahab gets all mopey and 3rd grader-ish. Until him and his wife devise a plan. They decide to frame Naboth for blasphemy, they plant a couple of people to accuse him at a party. It works. Naboth is killed, and King Ahab gets his vineyard.

Sounds like a happy ending right?

But then God sends a prophet to tell Ahab that He is about to wreck his world. Cut off his descendents, take away his throne, the whole nine yards.

That sounds normal to us right? Guy does wrong, God enforces justice.

But that’s not the way it used to be. When a king did something, it was the job of the gods, at least the job of that kings gods to legitimize it, to justify it. (Hence the blasphemy charges to get the vineyard).

Think about that scene in the Frost/Nixon interview and recent movie. The one where Nixon tells David Frost that when a president does something illegal, it becomes legal. We know know that reasoning doesn’t fly, but it would have. But the The God of Israel is a different kind of God, and He is trying to set humanity on a different path. One where those in power don’t lord it over others.

He doesn’t exist to just legitimize existing power structures, he actually calls them to be accountable. That’s a new idea, even though it seems like it should have been around forever. Matter of fact, if you are in power God holds you more accountable.

This applies across the board, religious leaders and teachers will be held to harsher judgement. The writers of Scripture knew that power, and kind of power, can go to a person’s head. They can start to think that they are above the ones they lead. It’s a call to remember that even though others may answer to you, you answer to God.

One of the terms used in the Bible to refer to God and to Jesus, is the King of Kings. This isn’t just praise, it’s a statement about the way God works in the world. God is over your power structures, your thrones, your presidents, and your churches. So when humans get to big for their own britches, we need to remember we answer to someone else.

Get your own vineyard.

On January 26, 2009

Propaganda

So our daughter is only 6 months old, and she is already facing an onslaught of propoganda. The two most common words around our house right now are ma-ma and da-da. Each spoken respectively by the parties represented.
You can probably see where this is headed.
Leslie and I are in friendly, but fierce competition to see which one of us can get Eden to say our names first. And I am proud to say that last night I won. Eden said da-da.
Well actually she said daaaaapblllt. She wasn’t looking at me, and it sounded like an Indian war cry, but I think she knew what she was saying.
In the coffee shop at church there is a woman who works there named Rose Mary. She has lived a really interesting life, starting from when she was a little girl in Germany in the 1940’s. She actually grew up in Nazi Germany.
I was asking her the other day about what she remembered and what it was like. She told me that she remembered listening to Hitler’s speeches on the radio and she remembered her dad not allowing them to read the newspapers. The reason, she explained, was because her dad was against Hitler. He did not agree with the Nazi’s, they actually had a Jewish uncle they loved.
But Mrs. Rose Mary explained, disagreeing with Hitler was not an option.
That’s the thing about propaganda. It does not invite disagreement. It acts to divide and polarize, closing the lines of communication. The actual definition of propaganda is “biased information with a particular point of view.” It’s myopic, it’s tunnel vision. And it’s not like we can say that was only a problem during the Third Reich. It’s still very much alive today.
I could tell during the presidential election who a person was voting for by asking them one question: Which station is more biased, Fox News or CNN (unless they were libertarian, that threw off the survey). We act like we are impervious to propaganda but we are more divided than ever. I hear people parroting exactly what they heard on the morning news thinking they came up with it.
I found myself this election year being an absolute jerk to people that disagreed with me. I couldn’t see how a person could be so ignorant and divisive. While I was myself being ignorant and divisive.
Don’t underestimate the power of propaganda. Because it’s working.
It is disheartening to see followers of Jesus become so divided over every issue that politicians and publicist have managed to spin. Now this isn’t to say that there are times and places to stand up for certain things, but just looking over this last year it seems like we have chosen our battles poorly.
Maybe it’s time to take a break from what we allow in our heads all the time. Mrs. Rose Mary’s dad knew that the only way to defeat propaganda is to not listen to it. Maybe it’s time to invite honest dialogue with those you disagree with, without assuming that you already know how wrong they are. Things aren’t always that black and white.
Unless, of course, it’s to get your daughter’s first words to be da-da.*
* Leslie wants me to be clear that Eden did not actually say da-da, however Leslie is wrong.

On January 22, 2009

Women

So a while ago I found this picture on the internet. It’s from 1938, and it’s from Searcy Arkansas of all places. It’s a letter response from Disney to a woman named Mary Ford.

And it’s sad.

It’s basically Disney’s response to her request to come work on doing painting for their films. Their answer was no. And their reasoning is because she was a woman. The only work that was available for a woman was tracing. Which I can only assume was not where all the young artist wanted to land. What’s so surprising to me is how blatant this letter is with sexism. And it’s not just Disney, this was the way the world was 70 years ago.

There is a story in Luke 10 that I recently read in a different way.

It’s about these two sisters, Mary and Martha, and Jesus is visiting them in their home. Martha is cooking and cleaning and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. At one point, Martha doesn’t like that she is the only one who’s working, and so she asks for Jesus to make Mary work too. Jesus responds that Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.

Now what I have always heard that as meaning we need to rest. Don’t always work yourself to death. Which is a good thing.

But it is not the most significant part of that story.

See to sit at a Rabbi’s feet in that day meant that the Rabbi was training you, teaching you, to do the kind of thing that he did. To sit at the Rabbi’s feet meant that you were being equipped to do something.

And without exception, every Rabbi only discipled males.

We miss this because we aren’t from that time and that place. But for Luke and his audience this was revolutionary. Women could do stuff too. They could participate in this new thing God was doing.

I once met a Buddhist lady named Okhee on a plane ride from Miami. Okhee was from Korea, and when she found out that Leslie and I were Christians she said one of the nicest things I have ever heard about Jesus.

She said that while she was not a believer in Jesus, she was thankful for him. Because of Jesus the people of Korea now saw women as equals. Christianity had been growing in Korea for a decade or two, and her mother and aunts were now more free than they had ever been.

This is the kind of dangerous seeds that following Jesus plants. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the history of the world most civil rights movements have been spearheaded by followers of Jesus. People who saw that the Gospel was not just about private piety but a reclaiming of the image of God in all people.

But, and here’s where things get dicey, have we lost our passion for that? I wonder if many women in our churches would feel like equals? Or in other words…does Disney now treat women better than churches do?

I think a telling place about where we are is how we read the Bible. I’ll talk more about this later, but for now, when did the story about Mary and Martha become a story about rest over revolution?

If Jesus himself thinks Mary can do it, who are we to hold her back?

On January 18, 2009

Anniversaries

So I am not one of those guys who remembers every special day in a relationship, or brings flowers on every holiday invented by Hallmark…but today is special to me for a pretty memorable reason.

On January 18th, 2001 I met Leslie for the first time at a Harding basketball game. I wasn’t very smooth or suave (I actually tried flirting with her by pushing her out on the court). I had not gotten past the whole Jr. High way of showing a girl I liked her. All I knew was that I really, really liked this girl.

I liked her so much in fact, that I went back to my dorm room and told my roommate that I had met the girl that I was going to marry. He immediately sat up in his bed and made me write down this statement:

I, Jonathan Storment, will marry Leslie Maas, January 18th, 2001.

Sounds romantic right? My roommate and I told a couple other close friends, and here is where it gets sticky. One of those friends, told her a couple of days later about what I had said and written about her.

Did I mention that I had just met Leslie?

So I go from being some guy who might have some sweet way to propose in the future, to being a really, really creepy guy who is moving way too fast…and she thinks I’m too short.

Needless to say, it was an uphill climb for a bit in our relationship.

But despite my good friend’s betrayal of trust (Josh Harriman you know who you are), things worked out and 8 years later I am so thankful that I bumped into her at that game.

Leslie has only gotten better, she has been better to me than I have been to her. She exemplifies selflessness with the way she serves others. She encourages me to be the man that I am not, but that she believes I could be.

I don’t know how God works with bringing people together. Whenever I hear someone say that God told them to marry this person I am always skeptical. But whatever gave me that impulse when I first met Leslie, I thank God for. Because after 8 years of knowing her, almost 6 years of marriage, and one beautiful daughter, I am one lucky man.

Happy Anniversary Sugar-Britches.