The night before Easter, in the quiet comfort of his living room, David Fitzgerald of St. Louis choked back tears as he told me his story.
His only memory, dim at best, of his dad, who left the family in St. Louis when Dave was three, came from age five when his mother refused to let his drunken dad enter the house for a visit.
In 1975, while living in California, Dave went through a devastating time in his own life so bad that he teetered on the brink of a lifestyle like his father. At that time, a friend invited him to church. He accepted, and there, for the first time, he heard the Gospel, responded, and gave his life to the Lord—a deep commitment that resulted in a life of ministry. It happened to be a Memorial Day which is also the holiday when he met his wife, Carol, and is the holiday on which I am writing this story.
In 1984, Dave moved back to St. Louis to start the church he now serves. At that time, he felt a strong urge to try to find his dad. His mother gave him the phone number of a buddy of his dad. Alas, his dad’s friend had moved out of state.
Dave looked through the phone book and contacted his father’s brother, John, whom Dave had never known. He informed Dave that his father had died in a Salvation Army shelter in the seventies. Dave reasoned that this was a logical end to the story of his alcoholic father.
About a year and a half later, the lost friend of his father called Dave. He told this buddy what his Uncle John had related about his father’s death and shared that he was not surprised that his dad ended up this way because of the life he had lived.
This friend, with surprised voice, said, “You don’t know the full story, do you? Your father wasn’t a resident of the shelter. He worked for the Salvation Army! He got religion in the seventies, ended up sober and worked at this shelter for the Salvation Army the last years of his life.”
The Lord reminded Dave that his dad died at about the same time that he became a Christian and placed in his heart that his dad spent his last years praying for the salvation of the son he never knew. At the point in Dave’s life, when he could easily have chosen the same path of his dad, his newfound-by-God dad interceded for him.
Get in line.
May I see your identification.
Your luggage is too heavy. New rules. That will be $75 extra.
Take your luggage over to Security.
Step away. This is not the line.
Don’t touch the counter or your boxes.
We will have to open this.
The boxes contain only books and tapes.
We don’t care. We have to open it.
Can’t you X-ray it? The box is wrapped to protect it. If you open it, that will destroy the wrapping.
Do you want to speak to a supervisor?
What’s the problem?
Why can’t you just X-ray the box rather than open it?
What is wrong with opening it?
I just explained that.
OK. We will X-ray it.
Now we have to open it.
There is something shadowy in it.
Those are books.
Open the boxes!
Did you write these books?
Are these tapes of yours?
Yes. The contents are described there on the outside. I come through here every week.
That doesn’t matter.
I am a 2-million-mile flyer and a top customer for twenty years of the airline right beside you.
That doesn’t matter.
You can go now.
New line for security.
Identification and boarding pass please.
You need to go through this other line.
You have been chosen for extra inspection.
It’s probably random.
Take off your coat.
Take off your shoes.
Put your computer in this tray.
Take out of your pockets anything metal and put in this other tray.
Why am I having to go through this different line?
Random. Extra security.
Take out coins and put in case. Put cell phone in case.
Just put your case on this ramp to go through the X-ray. You ought to take off those suspenders.
Sorry. I forgot.
Snap-snap. Clatter-clatter. Hold trousers.
Walk through the detector.
Stand here on this mat.
Hold your arms straight out.
(Great pain because of rotator-cuff tear.)
Sit down here.
Stick your feet out.
Why did you pick me out? I don’t fit any profile! I am an old man, an Irishman and a Christian as well as a 2-million-mile flyer. What does it take to prove that I am safe?
This is random.
That makes no sense to me. What is this little 85-year-old lady doing in this same line? She is terrified.
Is this your computer?
We need to do another test.
Can I open your computer?
You won’t let me open it?
You can, but you have already X-rayed and inspected it. That makes it turn on and I have to deal with it and waste battery life.
Snap. Boot up.
OK, you can have it back.
Is this your case?
Put it here on this counter and step back.
If you will tell me what you are looking for I might can help you.
I can’t do that.
Zip-zip. Snap-snap. Shuffle-shuffle.
Those are small nose-hair scissors with a blunt tip.
You are not supposed to have scissors.
But they told me here last week that they were OK.
I will ask the supervisor.
OK, you can go now.
Put on shoes.
Put on suspenders.
Put computer back in case.
Put on coat.
Re-attach cases for pulling.
Do you have everything?
Everything but my dignity.
May I see your identification?
You have known me for 16 years!
Those are the rules.
May I see your boarding pass?
Sorry, but your flight has been canceled.
Hello God. May I talk to you?
Do you need to see my identification?
I know you.
Do you need anything else?
Yes, let’s talk. You can go anywhere you want to go.
I have now reduced my flying by 60%.
I have increased my praying.
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I am a police detective and the surroundings of my work and working environment have been getting me down. I see sin in a format that most people don’t. The part of your message in Laguna that had the greatest impact on me is our constant desire for paradise. It makes sense why people do the things they do in an attempt to achieve their “paradise.”
After listening to your message, I felt like a big rock was lifted off my shoulders. I now have more compassion for the non-believers I work with and especially people I (will) arrest. The only way we will end up in paradise is by asking our Lord Jesus for his forgiveness (simple). And if I can be an instrument telling people how to go to paradise, I will.
I am writing to you to express my excitement and joy in starting a women’s study using your book, The Jesus Style, at our fellowship. This study has been a tremendous blessing to the women and a confirmation to me that this was the will of God to choose this type of study. With all the competition today with every type of study imaginable to women in the church today I was thrilled that the Lord showed me your book. We read several chapters and then do an hour video of the series “The Nature of Jesus” on a monthly basis and are loving it!!
Can we name our new coffee shop/fellowship room “The Jesus Style”? (YES)
I met you early this year at a Christian thrift store convention in California. If you remember, I was the rather large bald man who helped himself to several of your books. I began working for this ministry, my first, on the day you spoke with us, and what a blessing! (The lesson on servanthood should be required orientation for anyone entering a ministry.)
We are called City of Hope and we are a long-term residential drug and alcohol recovery program. Last week, we lost 5 staff members (out of 30) to drug and alcohol use. Our Pastor, in response, decided to cancel all classes this week for residents and called a 21-day fast for the remaining staff. Being the newest staff member, I have yet to be included on our daily devotional list.
However, having read both of your collections of stories, I had a devotional...and I was prepared to share your rather gross story about chickens and dead churches. As fate would have it, the person who was scheduled to give a devotional was no longer with us and since I was prepared, Pastor Bill allowed me to share.
Needless to say, your story deeply touched the staff that was present...and I have made copies of the story for a couple of folks who were absent (without your written permission, I might add).
I just wanted to send you a note of thanks...I will always remember my first day working for God...and to apologize. You see, to give them a perception of the true author of the story, I requested that they picture Ed Asner as the speaker. I truly hope you are not offended.
You are one of the most blessed people I’ve ever known. To not only know exactly what you’re here for, but to be doing it, and enjoying it so. Life just can’t get any better!
I’m at a different place in my journey here on earth. I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I know the basic plot: to love God, to love one another, and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
But where my cog is on that wheel I just haven’t figured out yet. And to tell you the truth, that one about “love one another” really keeps me busy.
Maybe God has already told me and I’m just not hearing Him (I know how deaf being human can make us). Or maybe I just haven’t gotten to that place along the path yet. Maybe I have more growing to do before He can really use me (and if I think I have issues, I can only imagine what God sees).
So right now, I’m doing one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’m patiently (most of the time) waiting on the Lord.
I’ve been through a lot of tough things in this life. I was sexually abused as a child by a relative, and I was physically abused by a teacher. I had an abusive father who came within seconds of ending my life on one occasion. I had an abusive husband who did the same.
My older brother used to beat me until I bled because my parents never told him that hitting his sister was a no-no. I’ve had many things happen to me that others would call tragic.
But I see now how important it was that those things happened. My eyes are open wider and I hear the things people aren’t saying when they speak. It has caused me to be able to bring up in conversations the things a person might really need to talk about, but wouldn’t have talked about with anyone else. I’ve seen people turn to God after they finally get out that “unspeakable” secret that has been haunting them.
And there’s nothing I’ve ever witnessed that’s better than watching someone come to God. Nothing. So my riddled past has had a good outcome so far. God has made it so.
I plan on reading your book, The Jesus Style. I just ordered it. I want to be a servant just like Jesus. It’s not to insure my place in heaven. I know that I’m going and I don’t particularly care where God puts me when I get there. I don’t even think that that would be on my list of reasons for serving. I really just want my whole life (every last second) to be for God. He has given me life, twice. And I’d like to give it back to Him at least once.
Listening to you speak reminds me that this life of Christianity is not drudgery. You see, I don’t listen to the same music that others around me listen to, and there are very few movies at the theater that my family and I can go see, and I even visited a church recently that made following Christ seem like a price they were paying. So disheartening.
As for me, I don’t mind that my life is so different, it’s a change that has occurred quite naturally. It’s not a burden. What is a burden is seeing other Christians sometimes. What a burden Christ seems to be to them; what an obligation.
But THEN I get on my computer and see your happy, smiling face. Oh, joy! God is so good! What an inspiration! This is what a life following Christ looks like!
And that’s where I want to be. I want to follow Christ so closely that people only see the love, and the joy, and the peace. I want to be invisible, as they say.
I’ll let you know how things go.
I am a new listener to your program. I used to be an occasional Christian. I only went to church or read the Bible when it was convenient to me—that is until July of 2003. I just wanted to let you know that your sermons along with many other pastors’ sermons have helped my relationship with God and I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Las Vegas, NV
Love yer “stuff” and style! Where’s the ever-present return envelope with suggested gimme, gimme, gimme amounts? You’ve got class and integrity plus.
Ada Brewer Gruenwald
Your ability to open up the scriptures in such an enjoyable way will be impacting our lives and bearing fruit in our marriages for years to come. You not only teach the servant’s heart of Jesus, you model it in a wonderful way.
Garden Grove, CA
The damaged tape was not completely destroyed. Now, when you are teaching on Footwashing from John 13, you look amazingly like a perky blonde named Denise Austin doing fitness exercises from exotic locations. The contrast gave eleven ladies in a Wednesday morning Bible study a lot of fun (along with the delight over my red face) but we would rather watch you.