You Needed Me

So I’m going a little old-school here, but is there a more elegant and reflective love song than Anne Murray’s classic, “You Needed Me?” Go listen and tell me if I’m not spot on here.

I don’t remember not having this song in my mental library. I remember seeing her sing it on television. Her effortless vocals (despite the acrobatics in the melody) were so sincere and grateful. I loved that thought of putting the one you love up on a pedestal, to help them, care for them, pull them from their messes and help them find a better course.

Those lyrics speak volumes about the ways that we can serve the one we love.

I cried a tear, you wiped it dry
I was confused, you cleared my mind
I sold my soul, you bought it back for me
And held me up and gave me dignity

Now those are great lyrics aren’t they? But the one that I just recently began to recognize as it came up on my huge playlist full of (mostly cheesy) love songs is the very next phrase:

Somehow you needed me.

Again and again, the lyrics describe all of the ways she has been loved, but the line comes up again: “You needed me.” It’s the title of the song.

Now let’s be honest. At first glance that doesn’t even make sense. Shouldn’t it be, “I needed you?”

But it highlights one of the most powerful relational lessons I have learned. One of the most powerful ways to build connection with someone is to be humble enough to need them just as they need you. And, just to be clear, I’m convinced we need each other. As a follower of Jesus, you simply cannot fulfill the Great Commandment without loving other people—and necessarily letting them love you too.

People that are close to my life will recognize at even a slight glance that I am surely more needy of my beloved wife than she could ever be of me, right? But I suspect that, if you really dig into it, you would find that my need for her is just more obvious and visible (largely because I’m the big mouth here) than her need for me. We can’t get around the fact that we need each other.

But this is true in relationships of all kinds. I have come to see that one of the best ways to build trust with someone is to ask for their help and then ask how I can help them. And yet, I find that so many of us are so incredibly eager to help others but so slow to ask for help for ourselves.

Do we realize that our unwillingness to need someone else is really robbing us of a much stronger relationship?

Many centuries back, an extremely wise (and exorbitantly wealthy) king shared the notes on his research project to explore every option and seek meaning in all the things that we are inclined to pursue. He said we need others. Consider his words here:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4.9-12

You see, the guy who could buy and sell attendants without thought concluded… we need people to lean on. I have a hunch that, if he could listen to Anne Murray’s song, he would say, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

Feeling the Weight (Thoughts from a Bus Driver – Part 2)

The first time I found myself in the driver’s seat of a bus full of kids it hit me like a truck. I looked up at that special bus driver rear view mirror and felt the weight of the responsibility I suddenly carried. A careless mistake now had exponentially greater ramifications than it had a few moments prior.

Driving a bus is a huge responsibility.

When you go through the training process and learn all of the regulations and particular laws for your area that govern this task, it can seem a little overwhelming. But the responsibility of driving the school bus doesn’t hit you until a bunch of kids—other people’s kids, mind you—pile onto that bus. 

Leadership, in so many ways, feels a lot like driving a bus. We’re taking responsibility to steer an organization or team or group. We will be held in some way accountable for what takes place, the success or failure, the growth or decay, the profit or loss. In my leadership context of ministry, the weight can swell upon our hearts when we consider the potential impact of our leadership and the implications into eternity.

When a leader has the heart of a shepherd, the weight of their responsibility may not be heavier than other leaders, but he will surely feel it heavily. But… IF you’ve never felt that, you really can’t grasp the feeling of it. You can understand that it’s there, but you can’t really know how it feels until you’ve been there.

When you drive a bus, you have a lot more to your charge than simply operating the vehicle in a manner that will safely arrive at the appropriate destination. You have a responsibility to see that your passengers remain safely seated. You must watch out for inappropriate behavior—that they’re not mistreating one another, not throwing things out the window, not displaying offensive gestures or body parts to others along the road—and countless other behavioral, interpersonal, and biological circumstances.

Why bother to bring this to your attention?

It’s simple, really. I am begging you to try to understand the unseen weight bearing upon the leaders you are called upon to follow. I want to urge you to at least hold up on your criticism of your leaders long enough to consider the responsibility they have and the way it may be affecting them. I implore you to go back and look at those decisions you didn’t agree with and see how that responsibility might impact the leader’s steps. 

And then, when you still disagree, would you have the character to stand up and say to them (personally, not publicly) that you don’t agree, but you appreciate the weight they carry. I can say from personal experience that it makes all of the difference in the world when someone is honest enough to express their disagreement but gracious enough to support you anyway. In fact, if your leader is a person of integrity, it will push them to strive even more for wise, healthy decisions for everyone involved.

I want to personally add this somewhat public apology for all of the nonsense I have ever been a part of on a school bus… especially Mr. Herschel Nichols—possibly the most patient bus driver I have ever known.

Thanks for the Lift!

I want to show you a picture of myself.

Turtle on a Fence Post

I know, I’m not a turtle. But many of you know that, if a spirit animal was really a thing, for me it would be a toss up between sloth and a turtle. I’m not particularly quick about stuff… generally speaking.

This picture is really more about how I feel at this point in my life. Several days ago I was able to participate in the graduation exercises of Dallas Theological Seminary. In a couple of months, when a bit more paper work is done and a few more hoops have been jumped through, I will hang my diploma in my study next to this picture.

This picture is in itself a testimony of how I find myself passing such a milestone. It was taken by my dear brother after hearing me speak of the old observation of the turtle on a fence post. It’s a simple observation really.

If you see a turtle on a fence post, there is one thing you can know most surely: he did not get there by himself.

That’s my story. I find myself in a place in my life to which I could never have arrived on my own strength or ability or effort. My amazing wife and this crazy kids of mine (born and otherwise) have endured and supported and allowed me to invest the time and energy needed. Our pals (a.k.a. the Coffee Club) have endured so many groaning sessions and crying spells.

So many of my brothers at arms—my pastor brothers who encouraged and supported and prayed for me along the way—helped me through more than they know. My family—brothers and sisters and parents–did the same.

There were several professors that invested more than just a transmission of information by helping me, encouraging me, and challenging me to genuinely, “Teach truth. Love well.” My mentor for this final year has invested so many hours in listening, encouraging, praying, and teaching.

And then there is the family of faith that motivated this degree in the first place. My CalvaryDuncan family has patiently allowed, endured, and encouraged this process. Their prayers and patience have been so crucial to this journey, but the truth is that I began this journey out of a longing to be the kind of pastor that I believe they deserve.

Along this mountain-climb, several folks have come along at crucial moments and made enormous investments in my life and ministry. Some of those have been in financial ways (including the entirety of my last two semesters’ tuition), some with a particular conversation or prayer, and some with a kindness or gift or gesture. All of these moments and helps have helped me carry on.

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This photo is a cross-section of the much larger group of folks that have given me such a lift.

All of these folks have figuratively lent a hand to lift a middle-aged turtle to a place that he could never have managed to reach on his own. So I guess the question is obvious: why?

I can only believe that all of these amazing people were a part of a extraordinarily beautiful example of what Paul taught us so plainly:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

They were and are, each and every one, vehicles of the amazing grace of God through which He has provided for me everything I need to follow His plan for my life and ministry.

As I pause here atop this utterly unlikely fence post, I can only say to them all, “Thanks for the lift!”