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IMG_1493Our move to Houston had a number of priorities on our relocation list.  The normal items of finding a home, establishing myself in my new job, finding a new job for my bride and of course, finding a new home church.  This last item was not the lowest on our priority even though it comes last on my list.

During our visits to Houston we not only shopped for a place to live and find a house to buy in the area that we chose to be our home, I asked a lot questions about church recommendations.  My list for churches that others were excited about was growing longer.  Now, it was time to systematically make our visits and trust God to lead us where He wanted us to serve.

Essentials on our list for a church to call home were simple.  There was doctrinal alignment.  Worship vibrancy was on our list.  Most importantly we wanted a church home where we would be able to love our pastor, support him and his family and be a couple that he could count on as the church moved forward.

We seemed to visit churches forever.  Each time we like so much of the many very good churches in Houston.  Yet, we just could not connect with our list of essentials.

Then, we met Pastor Gregg Matte of Houston’s First Baptist Church.  He was on Sabbatical the first time we visited HFBC.  In the meantime we roamed the city visiting all of the churches that people recommended to us.

When our list ran out we heard that Pastor Gregg was back from his sabbatical.  We chose to visit.  We were blown away!

It is like meeting an old friend and connecting right off the bat.  We met for a Dr. Pepper break, he invited us to their Christmas Celebrate and after a short decision discussion, my bride and I went forward in December 2012 and joined the church.

After years of serving as a pastor, cheering on other pastors, encouraging broken pastors, standing by the side of besieged pastors we are solidly in our Pastor’s corner and doing everything we can to honor his life and ministry.  Often our friends in far away states in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Tennessee ask how we like living in Houston.  Our response always includes the great reality that we love our church and our pastor.  That’s the way it should always be.

photo credit: yvonne fong photography

 

IMG_4348There is a love affair that many have for the game of baseball.  The diamond, the pitch, the hit, the bunt, the double-play and the stats fuel the imagination.  It is a gathering time for family and friends as well.

This game was special for many.  The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers were meeting for the second of a three game match-up. It is called the Texas Showdown.

Minute Maid Park was filling up with not just baseball fans but a large gathering of saints from Houston’s First Baptist Church.  Our pastor, Gregg Matte, was scheduled to throw in one of the ceremonial pitches to start the game.  When he was introduced, there was a roar from the crowd.  All of us wearing our blue Houston’s First T-shirts were enjoying our reason for coming to the ball game.

We set aside our popcorn and Cracker Jacks, stood to our feet and applauded our shepherd.  He strolled on to the field holding hands with his daughter, Valerie.  She nearly stole the show with her perfect grade school blond curls and delightful smile.

The national anthem was sung right after that ceremonial pitch.  Houston’s First Baptist Singers took the field and filled the stadium with perfect harmony and stirring words.   Our nation with its countless problems, despondent citizens, world crises needs a large dose of hope and these talented singers gave us a taste of a very good elixir.

Our Astros took to the field with all of the traditions of our national sport.  The Rangers were up to bat first as the visiting team.  They were smarting from the loss they were handed by the Astros the night before.

This night they would have their revenge. They trounced the Astros by a painful margin.  But, that is baseball.

No one wins them all.  When professionals who hit only 250 out of every 1000 pitches are doing well, then disappointments are not uncommon.  Pitchers who can throw a ball over 90 miles an hour and hit within a 12 inch diameter target every time stun the crowd with their talent.

God made everyone of us.  Some sing, some are athletes and other cheer on both while spilling soda and chomping down peanuts.  It is an amazing game for the widest possible audience.

In between innings we visit, laugh at the big screen and let cotton candy melt in our mouths.  Our great country is still pumping out goodness.  The good Lord Almighty is still blessing our Land.

photo credit: brucefong photography

York, Pennsylvania is a place to watch.  My plane landed in Baltimore Washington International.  It was a three-hour flight after an hour drive from my home in Katy, Texas.

This was a trip that I tagged on right after returning from a trip to San Francisco the night before.  Preaching is an honor that comes with a divine calling to ministry.  No, the money is not the reason for this busy life, of that I can assure you.

But, when there is a divine call, it is Heaven’s agenda that must be acknowledged.  It isn’t scary.  In fact is a thing of wonderous beauty.

Thank about it.  How can you get over 1,000 Pennsylvanians to agree on one thing together?  Most would never take on that kind of challenge.  It has to be something close to a miracle.

But, to be fair, when over 1,000 Pennsylvanians have a common need, there is a potential for a supernatural event.  This group needed a new pastor.  One pastor was free to answer the call.

A pastoral search is not a simple task.  Usually a search committee compiles opinions and shape a profile together.  Then, they set out on a journey to gather potential names that match that profile. 

When there are some hits, a conversation begins.  Some of these interchanges end early.  Others linger longer.

Eventually, there is one that all believe is promising.  Dialogues ensue.  There is growing depth with each new step that is taken together.

I talked with several on this search committee.  They told me that they entered their interviews with a battery of questions.  But, before they could ask them, Mike, answered them all in his informal conversation with them.

After that discovery, Mike continued talking.  He was ministering to the lives of these on the committee.  It was a touching moment.  Tears testified to this connection.

One by one, family by family and committee by committee could sense a union was forming.  It wasn’t a matter of voting but recognizing a shepherd whose voice was easy to recognize by those in the church family.  Mike and his family sensed the same blending of hearts and souls together.

I was graciously introduced to deliver the Sunday message of the installation service.  Everyone was expectant.  Speaking to a gathering like that is a treat. 

The smiles abounded.  Hope overflowed.  Love marked this assembly of Christ-followers.  It is a match made in heaven.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

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