In the beginning we didn’t plan to attend the 2017 North American Christian Convention. We were returning to the States primarily for three events: 1) The retirement party in Indianapolis for Doug Priest, my CMF International boss; 2) Repair and routine maintenance work in Johnson City on our no-longer-young bodies; 3) preaching for First Christian in Johnson City, were I had been the interim pastor in 2015-2016. But when we learned my Standard Publishing Company boss, Editor Mark Taylor of the Christian Standard, would be honored with his retirement banquet at the NACC, we revised our itinerary. We’re glad we did.
Mark is a diffident fellow. He didn’t want the spotlight on himself, even though the banquet was for him. Instead of having one speaker he asked Doug Crozier of the Solomon Foundation (new owner of the Standard and Lookout magazines) if there could be three. Permission was granted, so we had outstanding testimonials of the Christian Standard‘s most recent editors (covering 60 years): Marshall Hayden on his father, Edwin Hayden (1957-1977); Dave Stone on his father, Sam Stone (1978-2003); and Jennifer Taylor Johnson on Mark’s tenure (2003-2017). It was an unforgettable evening.
During the week I often reminisced about the 1982 NACC in Kansas City. I was the president that year. The theme was To All Peoples, the “s” in the title emphasizing the world’s many people groups and the biblical message that God loves them all. Speakers charged us who have heard the Good News to get to the rest of humanity with this life-changing message. The 2017 theme is a variation of the same concern: This Is for Everyone. As president Gene Apple insisted, “If your picture of God is anything less than unconditional love, your picture is wrong. God’s dream for his church has always been that it would be an ‘everyone’ kind of place. His love is for everyone.” Thirty-five years separate these conventions yet the theme is practically the same. That’s OK, since we haven’t exactly been practicing what we preach. We need to keep preaching it until we do.
For many of us the best thing about conventions is reconnecting with old friends. The enjoyment was enhanced this year as we heard from many who are regularly following lawsonsontheloose.net. Some like Jeff Greene have enjoyed the pictures so much they want to be in one of them.
Jeff served with CMF in Campinas, Brazil (1985-1991). We’ve been friends since then. He currently works as the Director of Development of Kentucky Christian University.
You’ve seen this picture of Rose in an earlier post. We were in a Paris bistro last fall. Velcro son Mike and I sat next to Rose’s table at lunch. When she discovered she didn’t have the correct currency, Mike valiantly paid her bill. Then he snapped this picture, which I wanted because she looks so much like Rosemary Stoltenberg, my oldest friend in the world (we met in the church nursery as babies).
Many months later the Pension Fund published an article about the loose Lawsons in The Bridge, the Fund’s magazine, along with this picture of Joy and me. Only Joy wasn’t Joy—she was Rose, the lovely lady in Paris. Not until this NACC gathering did the Pension Fund staff learn—because I told them!—of the mistaken identity. Much laughter. Joy attended the Pension Fund’s luncheon with me so I could introduce my real wife.
Occasionally on these pages I’ve confessed that from time to time we’ve been temporarily confused. You expect that of two aliens in a foreign land. But you expect something better of them when they are back in their own country, speaking their native language. However, you don’t always get what you expect. Twice this week we’ve been, shall we say, temporarily misplaced. We spent a couple of nights in a B&B in Independence, a Kansas City suburb, perhaps a half-hour away from the convention center. We managed to drive there in just 90 minutes. This one wasn’t our fault. We programmed the GPS to take us to the Westin hotel in KC. Siri, the GPS’s never-flustered-but-not-always-accurate-disembodied voice, directed us to the town of Weston instead. Fortunately, before we got to North Dakota I realized we were in the countryside, far removed from Kansas City’s high rises. After a brief argument with Siri, my will prevailed and we arrived at our destination. It only cost us an extra hour.
That was Tuesday. On Wednesday Mike drove us on a couple of errands. I needed to pick up my repaired hearing aid (which is so antiquated that the replacement part had to be special-ordered) and Joy her repaired wedding rings (I’ll not make any comments about “antiquated” at this point). The excursion was so exhausting I fell asleep in the back seat. When I awoke I heard something from the front seat about being in Kansas. We shouldn’t have been in Kansas. Mike blames our being in the wrong state on his GPS. This is one of the best attributes of a GPS–its capacity for absorbing blame. It helped me on Tuesday. It helped Mike on Wednesday. Perhaps I should mention that Joy was awake but didn’t correct Mike when he went astray. Not one to cast blame, I, too, kept quiet. Relatively speaking. Actually, I had quite a bit to say. Mike’s much younger than we are. He’s generally a very reliable person. But even he got lost. I forgave him.
When we left our all-family vacation in Branson we routed ourselves to Kansas City via Joplin, where former Emmanuel colleague and permanent friend Teresa Welch lives. She is now a vice-president of Ozark Christian College (and is vice-president of this year’s NACC). We forgot to take her picture in Joplin but made up for the oversight at a convention banquet. Even though she’s more than 30 years younger, she became my mentor when I joined the ECS faculty. It’s a little irritating to have to take direction from someone so young, but I have to confess she saved me from my own incompetence too many times! Ah, what’s the word? “…and a child shall lead them.” She’s Dr. Welch. She’s no child. But she did lead me.
We should have published this vacation picture last week. Julie has been our Velcro daughter since the 1970s. She not only remembered Joy’s 76th birthday but her gift contains roses and lilies, of special significance to Joy. Lilies adorned our wedding and were prominent in our son’s funeral. A thoughtful gift.
We were surprised again and again at the convention to learn how many of our friends, unbeknownst to us, have become regular readers of lawsonsontheloose.net. They often greeted me as “the Hat.” One, Brad Dupray, even insisted on taking our picture. He wasn’t at all interested in my face.
So many other good friends are in Kansas City. One, Bruce Templeton, was chairman of the board of Hope International University during my tenure there. At the time he was senior pastor of the Huntington Beach Christian Church. Following retirement he and Connie (the best thing about Bruce!) moved to Kentucky, where he is once again leading a congregation.
One friend I hope will remain my friend is Kip Lines. He’s my new boss at CMF International, succeeding Doug Priest. I’m a little nervous about our relationship. When Joy went to the CMF booth to retrieve my jacket and hat after the last session, she discovered that Kip had stolen the hat and was, she reported, reluctant to give it to her. This was after he had already chastised me for the job I did as MC of Mark Taylor’s retirement banquet. “Didn’t mention CMF,” he grumbled. “Didn’t even wear a CMF shirt.” We’re off to a rocky start.
JOYS PICK OF THE PICS