Newsletter – Volume 36


Newsletter – Volume 36

March 4, 2024

This Week

Confessions From the Back of the Pen
Meet James...

Every now and again, I like sprinkling in stories of people of faith whose lives are lived out in the public sphere. This week I’d like to tell you about a person in politics that I hold in high regard. By sharing his story, I am not making a political statement. Rather, I simply want to illustrate that Black Sheep Messengers are needed in every arena of life.

James Lankford is a senator from Oklahoma. I met him about 12 years ago, when he was a young congressman. We invited him to speak at the church I was pastoring at the time, and I was struck by both his genuine faith and his sincere heart for people. He served for 4 years in Congress, before being elected to the Senate in 2014. He is the ranking member of the Committee for Natural Resources, and Infra-structure. He also has Committee responsibilities in the areas of Taxation and Health Care. But for those who know him best, his most notable characteristic is his capacity to clearly articulate his values and principles without coming across in a condescending manner.

Before going into politics, he was a youth pastor and camp director. For 15 years he served as the Director of Student Ministry at the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, and the Director of Falls Creek Camp (the largest camp of its kind in the nation).

From his bio and his picture, you might find it hard to believe that he is anything close to a Black Sheep type. And it’s true he does have that all-American look and way about him. But the reason I think he qualifies as a fellow Black Sheep Messenger has to do with how he got into politics in the first place. This was not an aspiration for him. He did not set out to be a politician. He was quite content to serve as pastor and camp director – and he was very good at it. Over 50,000 students were touched by the work he did at the camp. Why would anyone want to leave such a fruitful assignment?

For James it was all about a dream.

One night he had a vivid dream that he was supposed to run for Congress. What made the dream even more dramatic was the promise that if he ran, he would win. It was hard for him to believe and in the natural, it seemed impossible. But after considerable prayer he and his wife decided to take the leap. Most people (at first) thought he was a long shot. Lots of people questioned his motivations and intentions. Who did he think he was? But as is the case with most Black Sheep Messengers, he was willing to follow his heart and pursue something that most people scoffed at.

Right now he is the middle of one the more contentious issues of our day dealing with border security. He needs our prayers. There are no easy answers, and he is attempting to lead from a place of integrity. And who knows but that he hasn’t been raised up for such a time as this.

Word of the Week


Noun:  the state, quality or habit of being kind

My mother-in-law was 90 years old when she passed, it was one year ago (March 2, 2023). She lived a life of faith and service.  She spent the last years of her life in a memory care facility.  At the end she didn’t remember me anymore.  But she was always kind and gracious when we visited.  We would sing hymns and read her favorite Psalms. I know this isn’t always true, but I think there is something about how you live your life overall that seeps through at the end – even when your mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be.  Every time I saw mom Cone it was a great reminder that kindness in life affects our legacy in more ways than we imagine.  Practicing kindness has ripple effects far beyond the moment we’re doing so… Given all that is happening around us in the world today, I can’t think of a character quality more worth developing. How will you give attention to that yourself this week?

A Book I Have Been Reading

When God Winks At You

Subtitle: How God speaks directly to you through the power of coincidence.

I have been trying to cut down on my screen time an hour before going to bed. And so, Carol suggested this book as something that might work as a good read before heading off to sleep. It is perfect. Squire Rushnell has done an excellent job of collecting and writing a whole series of short (real world) stories that reveal God’s goodness through truly miraculous circumstances. Each story is typically 2-3 pages, but truly moving and faith-building. Highly recommend. I love Rushnell’s own reflection on his work, he writes, “When God winks, He is affirming that there is absolutely nothing about us that He does not know – our every hurt, our every desire. And that is very comforting indeed.”

A Personal Request

Upcoming Surgery

Promise worth holding on to: Every twist and turn in life is a new chapter with a purpose.

Ten days ago, I went in for my 6-month bladder check-up. My urologist preformed a cystoscopy where he scopes the inside of the bladder. Unfortunately, several new tumors were found. They are small and they look like the ones I have had before, which are low grade, non-muscle invasive. If you are going to have a tumor that is the best kind to have. However, over the last week, those tumors have been bleeding (not good). This means they are expediting the surgery. It is scheduled for the 19th of this month. As you think of it, please join me in prayer that there will be no further complications and a quick recovery.

New Possibilities

New Studio Space

For the last 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to house my recording studio at Concordia Christian High School. The studio is where we record our “SideWalk Conversations” podcast and Pocket Prayer reels. The school is expanding and they now need the space. I knew that would always be a possibility, and it was part of the arrangement when I came over. But now I am in search of a new space. Should you know of a reasonably priced space we can use, please let me know. Thank you!

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