As some of you know, I spent Monday through Friday of last week in and around Austin, Texas. While there, I was able to spend a few days with my mother (more on that below) and lead a Simplify The Message workshop (more on that below as well). All the while, I was able to realize yet again that while I may have left Texas a long time ago, a big part of it has never left me.
So here they are: top five reflections on a week in the Lone Star State.
One. Time With Mom. At 104, my mom is not quite what she was at 100. Or at 90. Nevertheless, she is still pretty remarkable. When I walked into her room at the Sodalis Assisted Living Facility in Buda, TX (Luxury Assisted Living! say the signs), she immediately knew who I was. She very much prefers sitting up to lying down. At 104, she is just now going through what mere mortals do at 84 — I end up answering the same questions and repeating the same stories every few minutes. And then, occasionally, there emerge bursts of mom as she always was: “Shouldn’t those signs say Luxurious Assisted Living instead of Luxury?” And even, on occasion, a new & improved version: “I love you and I’m proud of you” were her closing words to me when I left on Wednesday. Here she is saying hi to her many fans:
Two. Time With Siblings. Lunches with my brother Harvey & his wife Gayle and then on another occasion with sisters Nancy and Virginia remind me the blood ties are deep. The older we get, the better we get along.
Three. Time Alone. While I speak publicly for a living and am pretty personable in ministry settings (aren’t I? Please?), I sure don’t mind time to myself. That time gave me plenty of opportunities to think about my Sunday morning sermon as well as prepare for the workshop I led on Thursday (see below). And, through the miracle of YMCA membership, I was able to work out every full day I was in Texas.
Four. Time Connected. As miraculous as nationwide YMCA membership is, my little laptop is even moreso. I did not join the laptop generation until 2017 and now I can’t imagine traveling without it. I was able to keep track of emails, tweet out salient observations, multi-task while with mom (yes, forgive me Father, for I have sinned), and send out daily Reading Prompts on Facebook. Some folks find such connectivity to be draining; I find it life-giving.
Five. Time With Clergy. On Thursday came the “business end” of the trip. With my Facebook friend David Johnson, a pastor at First UMC of Round Rock, TX (just north of Austin) and his District Superintendent Brad Brittain, we were able to schedule and hold a Simplify The Message; Multiply The Impact workshop for the clergy of the South District of the Central Texas Conference. That conference runs roughly from Fort Worth down to Austin — Texas is so big (duh) it has FIVE Annual Conferences within it. Anyway, I shared with 35 or so clergy and lay speakers about the power of a one point sermon AND delightful exegesis & “the joy of discovery.” Most of them picked up a Simplify book and many of them also purchased Head Scratchers and Crash Test Dummies as well. Among the attendees was a very special guest: my sister Nancy whom I didn’t even ASK to come but she independently decided she wanted to! She listened attentively, laughed appropriately, and steadfastly refused to tell any embarrassing childhood stories about me. It made a really good day just about perfect. Here’s the group: