Monday, March 11, 2013

Today, I ran!

Today, I ran!  It wasn't far or fast or pretty, but I ran.  I listened to Born to Run, Running on Empty and the theme from Chariots of Fire.

Memories came flooding in:
I was that 10 year little boy who stood up from the wheelchair and walked.
I was that young teenager running on the beach as my dad drove along side me.
I was that 17 year old running 5 miles.
I was that 34 year old, 246 pound pastor who almost passed out when running to the end of the driveway.
I was that man who ran his first 5k.

I have ran in hail and wind and rain and snow.
I have ran uphill and I have ran downhill.
I have ran into a tree.
I have ran in mud, over trees, under trees, around trees, up a creek (without a paddle).
I have ran adventure races, half marathons and marathons.

None of that compares to today.  Four months after an injury and being told by my doctor that my running days were over, today, I ran!

And I will
Keep Running!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rev. O.V. Dodson

My Father in Law, O.V. Dodson died Feb 10, 2013.  I was privileged to deliver the message at his funeral.  Here is the transcript:

FEB 14, 2013

Today is a day when lovers exchange cards, flowers, gifts.  When those whose heart beat as one, celebrate their love and shout to the world their love, commitment, desire for one another. Today, I want to talk about a love story.  A love story that includes Orville Verdayne Dodson (O.V.). 

But this is not a love story surrounded
with the people he pastored or cared for
with his many grandchildren and great grandchildren
with his step-children
with Janice
with Brian and Dana
with Sharon or Butch
This is not a love story surrounded even with Elaine.

Those are love stories of the heart and dear ones, we could talk for days on end of  O.V.'s love for you and your love for him. 

Rather, I will tell of a love story of the soul.  A song that plays not for a few days, but one that continues through eternity.  A sonnet that reaches to the very depths of where one lives, breathes, exists: the love story of O.V. Dodson and Jesus; The picture of O.V.'s life could be filled with images of his preaching, praying, countless hours visiting those who were ill or sitting with those mourning holding their hands and hearts.  No, the depiction of O.V. is best captured by his love, his deep love for Jesus. His desire to love God and love others.  His desire to serve God and serve others. His desire to point people to the grace of God as expressed through hope in Jesus.   

According to official records, O.V. was 99 when he died.  O.V. counted the day of his birth as his first birthday, so when you asked him how old he was, he would reply that he was 100.  I think he did this just to get a reaction from Janice. O.V. certainly stirred ones heart and brought about a reaction. 

O.V. Dodson was  man of who deeply loved and was loved deeply. He was also a man who could not drive.  If you rode with him, you typically did it once and your prayer life increased.  He loved many people into the arms of Jesus and might have scared a few into His arms as well. 

His prayer life was legendary.  He told me once that he did not keep a prayer list but rather simply prayed for those whom the Lord placed on his heart.  And the heart of O.V. was tremendous. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.  If O.V. Dodson prayed for you, you were indeed being brought into the presence of The Lord. 

O.V. prayed and walked; 5 miles a day up into his 90's.  In fact, he was prayer walking before it was called prayer walking.  He was 99, or if you use O.V. math, 100.  He did a lot of things before they were in vogue.  One time I asked him what life was like before TV, he replied "TV? I can tell you what life was like before radio!"

The experiences he had riding in the families Model T from MO to ID, jumping a train and getting kicked off in Kansas City, teaching school, playing offensive tackle in football, seminary, marriage, kids and grand kids and great-grand kids, the crackers he carried with him in case restaurants did not have them,  his great love of food and the strange ways he mixed them together, the 58 year marriage with Elaine, the 17 year marriage  with Janice point to the remarkable life he lived. 

His life was full and filled with experiences you and I will never have, save one.  In the spring of 1933, he surrendered his life to Christ and soon thereafter, to the ministry.  As O.V. grew into The Lord, his love of scripture grew.  Ps 121 was a particular favorite. 

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

As you think about this scripture, the writer is lifting his eyes while in a valley, while surrounded by those who wish to do him harm.  In military tactics, you want the high ground.  When the enemy is above you, they have the advantage; you are more susceptible to attack.  When the enemy has you surrounded and you are in the low position, you need reinforcements. 

There was a time when O.V. was surrounded, when the witnesses around him were not the ones encouraging him to continue, but the voices telling him to quit, stop, give up hope. He was in the valley and the enemy of depression desired to invade and conquer his life. His beloved wife, Elaine, died. He was heartbroken. 
Jan 2, 1995:
My dearest darling wife, how, after more than 7 months, I miss you still, I'm sure I always will.  This afternoon, Sharon and Dana came by after an afternoon of shopping. Dana had several garments to show me; she was so excited and proud.  I oohed and awed over them, thinking of how you would have gone on about nice and neat they were.  I am so thankful to be able to share their joys, always remembering so vividly and how much you enjoyed our relationship with them.  My joy is dampened because you are not here to share with us and I cant bring you back, but I can come to be with you and our dear Lord who saw us through 58 years together.  Maybe it will be soon.  In the meantime, my heart grieves and I shed tears, but that will all be gone then.  Until that time, I keep plugging along.

O.V. was in a valley of grief.  And as he looked to the hills and asked where does his help come from, he knew, in this love story, his help comes from The Lord!

God indeed preserved his going out and his coming in.  O.V. desired his life to be a reflection of the light of Christ.  His life was surrounded, consumed, by his hope in Christ.  And that is, really, all that we have.  If our hope is in anything other than Christ, we will be disappointed.  I can say with certainty, that O.V.'s identity was not in who he was, or his name or anything other than Christ.  His identity was most assuredly in Christ.  He trusted, to the fullest, that God would provide for him in ways that were beyond comprehension. 

In the midst of the battle, when all seems lost, darkness and weeping may last for the night, but we can take great confidence that joy does, indeed, come in the morning. 
The second part of the journal entry: 
Mar 10, 2010
I had no idea what was ahead, but God did.  He revealed it sooner than I realized He would, for in 1995, He brought Janice to my attention soon after her husband, Johns death.  Somehow in His own good way, our minds and hearts blended. So, on Dec 30, 1995, we publicly exchanged marriage vows and have had 15 (17) good years together.  Praise and thank God for His ministry to a grieving heart.  O.V. Mar 20, 2010

O.V. experienced first hand the deliverance and the hope of The Lord.  His life was filled with this promise; grace and mercy of The Lord were with him. 
God's love, sacrifice, goodness, and kindness kept O.V. plugging along. 

Even in a place where he was surrounded, his HOPE was in The Lord for his restoration.  His love story is what carried him through the night until joy returned in the morning. 

O.V. was a godly man and his love story was one of faith.  I am confident that had he lived during the period scriptures were written, we might have Romans, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, 1 O.V., 2 O.V. 

His life was a life of faith that was found in the perfect and long-suffering grace of Christ. 
Although he was not known as a patient man--when it was time to go, it was time to go!
But, he was patient with Janice when she went shopping.  Janice would go into a store and O.V .would sit in the food court and very soon, he would start a conversation and hand them one of his cards.  On the back of the card are written "Ten things I have learned in 99 years." (or 100 according to O.V.):

1.    love is the supreme virtue
2.    family is of great importance
3.    God and His will are vital for personal fulfillment
4.    things are no guarantee of happiness
5.    honesty really is the best policy
6.    God keeps His promises
7.    Life is in God's hands
8.    Learning is a life long process (I'm still learning)
9.    God's divine providence is beyond comprehension
10. Ones only hope of eternal security is God's grace through Jesus

Hebrews 12
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 [a]fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

O.V. ran for many years, in 1978 he ran 1100 miles. At some point, he transitioned from running to walking. On average, he walked about 1100 miles a year.  Now using O.V. math, 1100x100 means he walked 110,000 miles.  The circumference of the earth is 24000 miles.  He walked around the earth 4.5 times. 

He was not a fast mover, but he was a mover.  In a race, no one remembers how you start but all look at how you finish.  Sometimes, people don't finish, they quit, they give up, they look up and the hills that surround them are overwhelming; their eyes no longer look up to the hills and ask where their help comes from, their eyes are downcast.  Their heart, desire, perseverance stops. 

Not O.V.  He ran with endurance, he walked with purpose, he served with compassion, he preached fervently, he loved deeply. 

O.V. kept a journal. He chronicled his life experiences; from the mundane to the thrilling. 
His last entry was Jul 27 and all it said was Bible and Prayer.  O.V.s love story is surrounded and kept true by scripture and communion with God.  His story is one of love for Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

O.V.'s love story of the soul does not end on Feb 10th.  The conclusion is not with his last breath.  Indeed, loved ones, Rev. O. V. Dodson's love story begins with these words:

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'