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I was touched by an email I received yesterday from Deb Rose, a dear friend who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  As you recall, the destruction from the recent spate of tornadoes was particularly devastating to the city of Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama.  The mayor there, Walt Maddox, has exhibited extraordinary leadership in the face of a city wrecked by disaster.  I appreciate the way he’s woven his faith and focus together to lead the city through the crisis.

After the tornado struck April 27, the chaplain of the police dept. drove the mayor around to see the devastation. After seeing two horrible areas, they were heading into the third when the mayor said to stop. They pulled over & had prayer and then the mayor started making decisions. First, he called the governor knowing that the task was too large for the city.

Less than 3 hours after the storm, the mayor addressed the media. After painting the grim picture, he said that he had found strength in Romans 12:12 (read). Then, he took questions. Last week, he said it was his belief in God that kept him moving forward. He said, “my faith kept me strong through this because I knew that I was not alone in this journey & anytime I had those moments of self-doubt, I could rely on my faith & be strengthened.”

His leadership & self-confidence inspired others. The thing he has said over, & over, & over is “we are not going to let these people down.”

He held press conferences daily, more than once daily, in the early days. He spends 2 hours out in the field each day, yet stays at city hall until 9 pm. He has said the he felt each of the 41 deaths. And, he has admitted that, on more than one occasion, when his body & mind finally forced him to stop working, he was helpless to stop the tears.

He said, “my heart is broken for what has happened to so many in our community & I feel desperately a sense that I need to grieve but I just don’t have time.”

A FEMA official said “this city is absolutely a model for disaster response.”

At 38, this first-term mayor is very popular, & for sure way beyond his years, now.

In fairness, the entire northern half of the state was devastated. This was the worst national outbreak of tornadoes since 1934. Alabama alone had 45 of them. The response from across the country with volunteers has been equally as impressive.

Expectations

Yesterday, as Tori and I were getting in my truck to leave for her game at Tyndall Park, we noticed the Med-Flight helicopter circling over head.  Helicopters hovering over the neighborhood were a common sound in Fresno; not so much in Benton.

As made our way down to Smithers, the helicopter kept descending lower and lower.  I never expected it would land at Howard Perrin school, but it sure enough did.  Apparently, the hospital uses that lot as a landing pad occasionally to transport seriously ill patients to Baptist Hospital.  We stopped at the Musteen’s house and watched with the happenings with our neighbors.

That was something I didn’t expect.

Kinda like Tori being such a slugger on our softball team.  I never expected that!  Tori is our girly-girl.  She loves painting nails, playing with dolls, and doing all those things little girls do.  Her big sister has a tom-boy streak and has always been our athlete.  But now, we’re seeing some athletic potential in our little bit.

Again, something I never expected.

Watching your children grow and develop skills you didn’t expect is a wonderful thing.  It’s amazing to watch them blossom right before your eyes, providing experiences that exceed all expectations.

Sort of like Trae’s singing voice.  Yes, she’s our tom-boy, but she’s always loved music.  We’ve listened to her sing countless times around the house, but never expected her voice would earn her solo roles in her school’s choir concerts.

As a parent, it’d be easy to ratchet up the expectations of expecting more.  But I’m trying not to do that.  Living alongside these blessings from God and watching God’s work in their lives is my greatest joy.

Mother’s Day

It has been a special weekend for my family.  Both Mandy’s mom and my mom are living within a couple of miles of our home, which is a first in our 17 years of marriage!  It is awesome to be so close to our mom’s and to be able to see them and spend time with them today.

Also, an added special blessing this weekend has been the presence of Brad and Scott Powers.  Being able to spend this Mother’s Day weekend with them has been so special.  Brad and Scott’s mom was taken from us last summer, very suddenly and unexpectedly.  Having served as Trae and Tori’s Vice-Principal, she took special care of our girls. Being an elder’s wife, she had a unique gift for encouragement and hospitality.  Mandy has pampered and fed Brad and Scott like you wouldn’t believe and the memories of this weekend with last a lifetime.

As is our weekly custom, you can watch a live stream of this morning’s worship assembly from Northside beginning at 10:15 a.m. (CDT) by clicking on this link.

Happy Mother’s Day!

1,000 Words

What is Marriage?

It seems like such an irrelevant question, yet ours is a culture that seems to struggle to come up with an answer.  Attempts at redefining marriage grab legislative headlines and engender heated debate.  Sunday morning at Northside, we’ll look into the divine design for marriage — a design as old as creation itself.

You can watch live beginning at 10:15 a.m. CDT by clicking this link.

D Words

Yesterday, I mentioned in my sermon how that many of our most depressing words begin with the letter “D.” 

Despair.  Disillusioned.  Danger.  Dire.  Defeated.  And for Easter Sunday, the most dreaded D word of all, death.

After tonight’s Arkansas spring weather, add disaster to the list.  The early reports of damage and disaster spread from Garland through Faulkner and into White County.  It’s been an unbelievable afternoon and evening of severe weather.

I can remember vividly the first tornado I ever saw.  From the second floor of the Geyer Springs church building, I saw a tornado passing through west Little Rock. Maybe you remember the tornado that took the roof off the church building at the Stagecoach Exit back in the early 80’s.  That was the first tornado I ever saw and one that terrified me senseless.

I also distinctly remember a particular Christmas Eve as a child when two rounds of severe weather passed over Benton. The first line passed through during the day.  My mom, sister and I huddled in a bathroom closet while my dad watched from the front porch.  Later that Christmas Eve, the tornado that destroyed Riverside Grocery cut its path through Saline County.  I can still remember the devastation as insulation and metal from the building littered the trees lining the banks of the Saline River.

As for the turkey hunter in me, disappointment is also an apropos d word.  Two days before the spring season opened, I heard 15 different gobblers greet the dawn on our lease.  Since that day, I’ve heard 4.  We haven’t had one sunny dawn since the season opened.  The wind has blown extensively.  The rain has been overwhelming.  The full moon didn’t help.  And, unlike my friend Eric Sheridan who harvested a gobbler late Saturday afternoon, I’ve struck out despite hunting five of the nine days the season’s been open.

Disappointment?  Yes.  Depressing?  Absolutely.

Defeated?  Hardly.  Tonight, I’ll go to sleep with a  roof over my head and a wife who loves me and two blessings from God tucked snugly into their beds.

And that, my friends, is delightful — a D word that’s downright wonderful!