Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The raven brought beans

I preached this past weekend at Willow Bend Church in Clarksville, TN, which is pastored by my good friend Buster Gilliam and his wife, Sandy. Buster was my next-door neighbor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, while we both were working on our Masters of Divinity degrees.

Buster was an incredible blessing to me. I moved to Louisville after living in Boston for 3 ½ years. I went to Boston in the fall of 1985 to attend Gordon-Conwell Seminary and to help plant a church (http://www.bostonworshipcenter.org/). Boston was a struggle for me, given the high cost of living, crazy traffic, cold weather, a failed romantic relationship and the difficulties of a life spread too thin. There is a silver lining to the Boston cloud in my life, I made some really wonderful friends, learned how to drive in the city, matured in my faith, and ate some great food. Nonetheless, by the time I left Boston, I was worn out spiritually, physically and financially. I showed up in Louisville feeling like a wrung-out rag.

I transferred to Southern Baptist Seminary to finish my Master’s degree. I lost my wallet in the parking lot, where it was picked up by Buster Gilliam. Buster had recently retired from the Army. He took the wallet to the administration building and found out the owner was his neighbor—so he brought the wallet home. That was a fateful day for both of us. Buster is a great cook and loved to make pinto beans with ham hocks. I would make rice, and the two of us would eat all week. Those beans, and the great conversations we had while eating them, soothed my soul like a healing balm.

Buster went on to get his Doctor of Ministry degree and planted a great church in Clarksville, Tennessee (http://www.willowbend.org/). When I was preaching in the area, I stopped by and saw Buster for the first time in over a decade. I asked the Lord to give me a scriptural picture of how He had used Buster to minister to me. The Lord gave me the picture of Elijah being fed by the Ravens. In 1 Kings 17:1-6, God provides for the prophet Elijah during a horrible draught by commanding ravens to bring him food. Verses 5 and 6 say, “So Elijah did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (NIV) This is a great example of God’s miraculous provision for a guy in a tough situation. It is also an excellent example of how my friendship with Buster was healing for me.

I’ve been studying Emotional Intelligence for my doctoral project. Daniel Goleman says in his book entitled, Emotional Intelligence, that one friend can make the difference between a life of wisdom and contentedness and a life of discontent, marked by destructive decisions. When I needed a friend who would help me stay on the path of wisdom and contentedness, the Lord sent Buster—like a raven with beans.

No comments: