I never, never, NEVER tell “what-happened-to-the-preacher-on-the-plane” stories. Just the fact that we’re able to jet off to conferences & preaching engagements seems so . . . pretentious. And some of my clergy brethren and sistren (what did you want, cistern?) are oh-so-cavalier about tossing in a “while I was on a plane” anecdote.
Except I have to tell a plane story from yesterday.
Because of storms in Charlotte, the plane that Julie and I were on in Texas was delayed three hours — a delay announced only AFTER we were sitting on the plane. Other than the inconvenience of the delay, the much larger problem was that Julie had a narrow window in the Charlotte airport, as she was headed straight to Newark for business while I was headed straight home for sleep.
So during the delay — and being the professional traveler she is — Julie found a direct Houston-to-Newark connection and got off the plane.
And her seat was taken by a guy wanting to escape a distraught baby behind us. While waiting, I took out a pad of paper and a blue Paper Mate pen and began scribbling down some notes for an upcoming sermon (in the Nooks & Crannies series, which will follow Wake Up Call). He noticed, was intrigued, and asked, “what are you writing there? Are you a teacher?”
A large part of me — the introverted part — wanted to grunt, “Yes” and resume my work (you know, my work that involves conversation with people). But I surrendered that impulse instead of surrendering to it and said “Actually, I’m a pastor.”
Turns out the guy loves Jesus, plays tennis, leads a small group at his church, and was interested in the kind of church I serve. So I casually mentioned, “Well, Abingdon Press has turned four of my sermon series into chapter books & bible studies.” Casually, mind you. (In our house, we joke that I can bring up the books as almost as quickly as Julie can bring up the fact that she went to Princeton.)
So my new friend said, “Tell me about them.” I answered, “I can do better than that. I can give you a couple right now and you can then use them in your small group.” See, the reason I could give him two books is because I had brought two copies of Solve and two copies of Head Scratchers with me to the Texas meeting I attended in the vain hope that someone there would ask me about them and I could do a Voila! and I could share the sublimity therein. No such luck. So on the plane I just reached in to my brief case, pulled out the copies, and handed them over.
And then it got really interesting. Because he began reading Solve. Right there. While sitting next to me, the author. Which meant that I was secretly wanting to ask him every two minutes, “What do you think? Do you like it? How’s the writing? Any typos?” But instead, I went back to my brainstorming for the Nooks & Crannies sermon (because October 9 is just around the corner), and became as quiet as an airplane mouse so he could read my book.
Have you ever read a book with the author sitting right next to you? Talk about pressure-filled reading — and tension-filled watching-the-other-guy-read.
As it so happens, a couple of chapters of Solve spoke directly to his life and family and my new (best) friend assured me that he’d be ordering copies of the two books for his small group. In particular, he resonated with Chapter One’s teaching that people don’t have alcohol/gambling/porn/shopping PROBLEMS; they have alcohol/gambling/porn/shopping SOLUTIONS. The problems are deeper and need a constant dose of God’s promises for healing.
Then our plane landed in Charlotte, I wrote this blog, and went to bed. My friend continued on to his ultimate destination in the coastal region of the Carolinas.
To order your copy of Solve, click here.
And that’s my airplane story, and I am sticking to it.