Me and Bu: A Long Sappy Car Story

Me and Bu – A Long Sappy Car Story

In 2002 hot on the heels of heartbreak and my first college graduation my car blew up on the interstate. As in, the engine completely and entirely locked up. I walked three and half miles to a sweet old lady’s house in Coal Hill, AR. And, even though she was afraid to let me in, she let a punk looking twenty-two year old sit in her living room and join her for an evening of the Gaither Vocal Band while my parents drove to pick me up.

Just like that I needed a car.

The next week Bu showed up. For a whopping $4650 this 1999 Silver (not grey) four door Chevy Malibu could be mine. I sold a cow to make the down payment and drove it home to the farm with a busted tail light that’s still busted fifteen years later.

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Bu was the first thing of significance that I ever bought and paid for with my own money. I was a department manager at Hastings, because that was still a thing. For a solid year I drove Bu everyday from the King Farm between Paris and Ozark on Highway 309 to Russellville where I moved a whole lot of movies and books over the coming months to make payments. Luke rode shotgun on most of those trips and we had some good times and a whole lot of laughs listening to “Riding with the King” by BB King and Eric Clapton on repeat every morning.

Bu and I took a lot of trips to Flatrock Swimming Hole, before it was shut down. That’s where Bryan C. almost drowned and I learned that saving someone’s life is a lot harder than Aquaman made it look. But I did save him. Hey it’s not everyday that you save a bonafide hero. Not that he would admit it or probably even like being called that, but he is, just like every other bright-eyed young man and woman that serves the red, white, and blue. Later he went to the Middle East and saved us from  Iraq—so I guess I saved us from Iraq. You’re welcome guys. (That part’s a joke Mr. Serious.)

Bu drove me to my job as a part time teacher. Bu took me to the shelter where I had the privilege of “working” which really meant playing basketball and PlayStation with abused and neglected boys. Bu took me to CarMart where I was a repo man and worked with some awesome people and had a wonderful manager named Brian. It was actually while I was a repo guy here that I went into full time ministry.

Bu broke the sound barrier the day my dad had his heart attack. I swear Bu made it from H street in Russellville to the hospital in Fort Smith in about three and a half seconds.

I paid off Bu as I worked as a college missionary associate with Chi Alpha at Arkansas Tech University. Amanda Smith and I road tripped together to Central Bible College in Springfield, MO to learn what in the world we were doing. Amanda, I’m not quite sure we ever really figured that out but it was a fun trip.

I drove Bu to the Steak ‘n Shake where Amanda and I met with Heath and Christie Graham, who in the years since I have come to think of more as family than just some friends I have spent nearly fifteen years working with. Seriously, after so much time I think I can finish all of Heath’s preaching stories for him. (The Dog Story is still the best one Heath.)

I drove Bu to watch Brad play more softball and flag football games than I could even begin to remember. Bu was the silver chariot that took me to more preaching engagements than I could possibly recount. Jason road shotgun in that soft small passenger seat to so many churches to help me lead worship that I’m pretty sure the seat still has the shape of his 6’8″ frame.  

Bu took Matt and I up to north-central Arkansas a lot to play music for many small but awesome churches. These days Matt is the worship pastor at one of the best churches around.

Bu drove Kim to the hospital that time we all thought she was dying in my apartment. Bu is what my brother and I rode in together for months after he almost killed us on the interstate. It’s a crazy-cool story that I share with people all the time. God wrapped up a twenty year old miracle that day.

Bu picked up Jamie for our first date. We drove Bu to Florida on our honeymoon. To Memphis to celebrate three years together. Bu drove Ethan home from the hospital. Three days ago, nestled in the glove box under the demo tape my garage band cut in college, and where they’ve been for the last ten years, I found the personality tests Jamie and I took when Pastor Keith did our premarital counseling and told us we were perfect for each other.

Bu drove a handful of us to Eric’s bachelor party, which I have spent the better part of the last thirteen years trying to forget no thanks to you Jason. Bu carried me and Jamie to the home of the world’s largest mosquitoes to celebrate the best thing to ever happen to Brad (that’s you Katie!) at what I dearly hope always remains the hottest summer wedding I have ever been a part of.

In May 2007 Bu carried me and a bunch of friends to a fun filled day to celebrate my upcoming wedding. We played laser tag with modified paint ball guns. It was awesome. Then Bu took us to Long Pool where Jeremy almost drowned…so I saved him. At my bachelor party. Then we watched from the top of one of the rocks as two clans of crazy hill people tried to kill each other with sticks and rocks….not even kidding.

Bu has done, seen, been a part of, and carried me to a lot of important stuff.

Because I’m a cheapskate Bu has been to the shop exactly one time in fifteen years. And that was right after I brought Bu home.  

 

Bu was also the object of my attention as I grew into an incredibly amateur YouTube mechanic. Jamie’s dad Tiny passed away on Thanksgiving Day two years ago, but he spent many many hours helping me take Bu apart and put Bu back together again. The only time I ever saw Tiny (who was a mechanical genius) stumped was with Bu’s breaks which were so old by then that they were basically stuck. Luckily his buddy showed up and knew a good country boy trick. Bu was the centerpiece and the focal point for our growing friendship over the course of a decade. We talked about family, how terrible of a mechanic I am, and Jesus an awful lot under that hood. Tiny’s running joke was that if a mechanic job should take about an hour we should plan a whole day. He wasn’t wrong. Sometimes it took two.

One day Tiny got in Bu so we could drive around the Dover area and diagnose a weird sound coming from a wheel. Bu chickened out and never made the noise again.

Another time I pulled up to his shop in Dover and the Marshall was standing over Tiny with a bandaged pressed to the big guy’s ear. My father-in-law (he lovingly liked to call me “his wife’s son-in-law”) was on blood thinner so a cut he had on his ear wouldn’t stop bleeding. Bu took Tiny to the Dover Clinic where they told him that it would be several hours before they could see him. So he took the bandage off of his ear and started bleeding on the poor girl’s desk. She found that missing doctor pretty fast. Tiny will always mean the world to me. I miss him every day.  

Bu, I’m sorry I lost your last original key while trying to help some baptist girl find her way-too-expensive-to-be-floating-in sunglasses when she lost them at Slant Rock. But Benji got you to open up for us and the extra key was safe inside. For that matter Bu, I’m sorry for all of the times I locked your keys in you and had to poke you with a hanger and string to break in—but you have to admit we did get that down to an art over the years. Like when Brandon and Kristin went with us to Petit Jean and I locked you up too soon. Or at the movies and Justin had to come help. Or that one time at the bank. My fault. That other time at the church. Jamie’s fault and Justin helped again.

Six years ago Bu even took a trip to Keystone, CO. Along the way Stephen learned not to pull over on the left side of the road when a state trooper pulls you over at 3:00 AM in Kansas—and I learned that if a trooper tells you to show him your hands he doesn’t want you to give him a thumbs up and go back to sleep in the back seat—AND that I get pretty mad and mouthy when a state trooper yells at my wife. Did I mention it was 3:00 AM?

When my missionary friend Greg had an important meeting with friends in Little Rock a couple of years ago he joined the elite group of folks that have set behind that fading grey steering wheel.

Bu has dropped off more pizza, donuts, and chicken nuggets to hungry college students than seems possible. Has carried me to a lifetime’s worth of lunch meetings, midnight movies, and Sunday mornings. Bu carried me to Arkansas School of Ministry, Might Nights, Restoration Worship Center, prayer meetings, and countless other places.

Bu started as a bandmobile. Bu became a Bible-buggy. Bu became Daddy’s Car. My favorite. My boys have always loved riding in Daddy’s Car.

Bu has been better to me than you ever expect a car to be—especially one that you pay so little for. I’ve spent nearly half of my life driving my humble little car. We have taken exactly one family trip with all three of the boys in Bu because our nicer newer Santa Fe was in the shop for minor repairs and an oil change.

A few days ago I bought my wife a nice van. It is a sincere blessing. Something we’ve been praying about for at least a year. It’s the vehicle my boys will probably learn how to drive in because as you can see I like to keep a car around. When the sweet sales girl offered me $300 for my car I felt a little sad. I very nicely told her that I would rather give my Bu to someone that needs a car.

So that is exactly what I did. Bu still had one more blessing left to give me…

“You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.'” Acts 20:35

 

If you have “Bu Story” of my old car, or a great car story of your own will you share it with me in the comments?

 

With Thanksgiving 

 
Thanksgiving has always been an incredible holiday experience in my family. Food, family, and fun have always been the norm resulting in a lifetime of memories that have helped shape my values and direct my life. This has given me a thankfulness for my past that is rooted deep in my soul.

I realize that my experience is not the same as everyone else’s. I know how blessed I am. I know that those like me who find the holidays to be refreshing and full of joy have something truly amazing to be thankful for. I try very hard on a daily basis to live in a way that does not take it for granted. This stage of life is showing me on a daily basis what I have to be thankful for right now, today, every day.

Last year Thanksgiving changed. We were at my parents’ farm where I group up. It was early in the morning. We were getting to ready to have breakfast when we got the news. My father in law had passed away early in the morning hours before dawn.We were close. He would frequently supervise me as I tackled projects way beyond my skill set—offering up his expert advice and informed opinions—all smothered in generous helpings of his winsome sarcasm. 

Over the years I had come to love and appreciate our conversations. They were packed with questions. He would quiz me on different passages of scripture and I would share my opinions. We disagreed almost as much as not and I ALWAYS came away learning something even though I was the one being asked the questions. 

His passing hit me hard. He had become a second father to me. Of course I was sad, as most people are when losing someone they care for, but I was reassured by one simple passage of scripture that I have probably heard hundreds, maybe thousands of times.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A year ago that’s exactly what he did. It was a reminder of the joy that awaits us. In an era of cultural uncertainty it has renewed in me a sense of thankfulness for the future.

From One Mom to Another: You should go on a mission trip . . .

On mission trips there are needs surrounding you at every moment. Needs of the people you are there to minister to. Needs of the missionaries, families, and staff you are in country supporting and assisting. Needs of your own team. It is a great burden and responsibility. It also a wonderful opportunity to experience incomprehensible joy. Much like motherhood.

Mom, won’t you join us for a few funny (and genuine) reasons why you should spend time in the mission field and on short term mission trips. So here we go…

5. The newborn phase already taught you how to survive without a shower.

4. You automatically count the number of your people who are on the bus/car/truck/motorcycle.

3. You don’t whine much because no one at home is listening anyway.

2. You’re used to carrying your body weight in diaper bags, toys, equipment, and children.

1. You’re an amazingly efficient packer when packing for four people, there’s no telling how efficient you could be only packing for one.

Truthfully, consider these:

5. You’re family will survive without you. They need the chance to take over some of your responsibilities.

4. You have been inherently gifted to give your heart to those around you in the way God specifically created a woman to love. You have been given little blessings on whom to perpetually practice this skill.

3. Being a mom has uniquely sharpened your ability for your heart to break without your Spirit breaking. Being resilient is a God given trait. I’m pretty sure it appears in the dictionary with mother.

2. Because of your experience, an experience resulting in a practical and powerful faith, you will be able to minister to other wives and moms in ways single ladies or men will never know.

1. We can’t JUST tell our kids that Jesus said Go into all the World and preach the Gospel……

Moms have a lot of GREAT reasons not to go. We have a great calling here in our homes and jobs, but that does not cancel our other callings. My children NEED me but they need Jesus MORE. And they also need to understand there are kids and moms around the globe who need Jesus even more than my kids need me.

In a few short days, You can invest in and make an eternal impact on families in a far away place. Then with renewed vision, strength, and perspective you fly home and continue to invest in your family.

SERIOUSLY! Prayerfully consider joining us for a trip soon. From one mom to another, I can’t wait to go again.

Love: More or Less

 
The cashier looks at us and says the words everyone hopes to hear standing in the checkout line. “I’ll take the next in line over here” as she opens a new lane.

A man and his wife cut in front of our family at the grocery store. I’m holding my six month old son, he’s crying, having exhausted all patience for this place. My oldest son is bouncing from rack to rack begging for candy. My wife has had a LONG week. Sick kids, crazy work stress, the pressures of ministry. How do we react?

Love. But it doesn’t feel very lovely. In fact I have a rare talent for opening my mouth at all of the wrong times. And this is one of those times when I absolutely want to. But I don’t. Truthfully it won’t hurt us to wait a couple of more minutes—and I don’t know what is going on with this young couple that they feel the need to rush in front of a dozen or so other people. 

Now, don’t confuse love in this situation with quiet, or passiveness. In fact, never confuse love with quiet or passiveness. Sometimes loving someone means making A LOT of noise and getting right in their face to tell them the hard thing they need to hear. 

I work with people. Most of us do. I see people, talk to people, and help people daily. If I don’t love them how can I fulfill what I believe to be my life’s purpose? Really that’s what this idea boils down to for me. 

Every day, in every situation, we have a choice to make regarding each person we interact with. We can choose to love them more, or love them less. 

Loving them more could mean extending grace, holding back judgement, and offering goodwill, but it could also mean correction or confrontation. We have to decide that. You know, like that famous Disney cricket from the 20th century said, “Let your conscience be your guide.”

What does it mean to love people less? Well, don’t we see the fruits of this on a regular basis? War and violence, disrespect and discord. 

In the absence of love there will be the presence of something. Some emotion. Some thoughts or feelings. I choose to fill my heart and thoughts with love toward others. I don’t always get it right. But I’m aiming to love more, not less.

What about you? It’s not a one time sweeping decision. It’s an every day—every interaction—kind of decision. Choose. Because you can. Choose to love more, not less.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

Parent Stuff: The Weight of Grace

  
In 2011 I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Arkansas State Capitol at the invitation of then Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr. My responsibility that day was to open the afternoon session of the 88th Assembly of the Arkansas State Senate in prayer. I had thought long and hard about the words I would pray over those important lawmakers. Here is an excerpt from the prayer I prayed that day.

“God, my fervent hope today is that you would help them to continue to hear—not just the voice of their constituents, but your voice as well. God grant them the wisdom to make sound decisions and the discernment to understand the far-reaching implications of those decisions.”

I don’t remember what was on the docket for the day. But I know that each man and woman in that chamber was responsible for representing a body of people they had chosen to serve. Their actions—no matter how small, or even seemingly insignificant, carried weight. What they discussed, conclusions reached, votes cast. It all mattered. It all made a difference. The molding of the law was akin to working the clay of civilized society.

What about you?
In your world you may be the lawmaker. You may be making the rules of the house. You might be passing down mandates and dictating decisions that shape the days, months, or years to come. If you’re a parent or guardian of a child you better believe this is true.

Your every decision, reaction, omission, and word have weight. The things you do will echo in the future of your child. The things you don’t do will echo just as loudly! The point I’m trying to make is that you have a responsibility. It is holy. It is God-given. It is authority. It is blessed. It is vital.

The implications of your every action are so important. I wish I could say I always get it right. I love my boys so much. But not an hour ago I was sending my three-year-old off to bed with a much harsher tone than was probably necessary. 

Parents, do you feel the weight of the life you hold in your hands? I hope so. Does it keep you up at night sometimes? I hope so. I think it should.

Now. Stop holding your breath. Unclench a little bit. Relax. Breathe deep. After all, you’re not perfect. Yes, your every action and inaction as a parent matters. But you’re never going to get it all right. But guess what? It’s alright. After all, who better to guide you through your imperfectness as a parent than the perfect parent?

Ask God to help. Go ahead. Ask him right now, I’ll wait.

Now, doesn’t that feel a little bit better. Ok,maybe it doesn’t yet. But long before you became responsible for guiding this little human being through the obstacle course of life God set your memories into motion. The first steps, the first fight, the crying, joy, gladness, serenity, and taxing anxiety of parenthood…God has already experienced all of it, for everyone, ever. Whoa!

He’s right there in the middle of your mess waiting for you to ask him to make it better. I love my boys “to the moon and back again” as one of our favorite bedtime stories goes, but I’m so far short of the perfect parent.

Thank God I’ve got God. He’s in the mix. He’s helping in the moments when I want to duct tape my son to his bed and scream at the wall. He’s there rejoicing when I get it right! He’s there when my heart hurts over a poor decision I have made. After all, there’s grace for that.

Yes, there are far reaching implications for your every action but God’s actions can reach farther than yours. There is a weight to grace.

You Can’t Fly a Watermelon

Watermelon Rocket

You can’t fly a watermelon to the moon. Its rind is not resistant to exiting and entering the atmosphere. It has no fuselage. No fuel. No propulsion. It was not designed to fly to the moon. That’s not even rocket science!

Nothing works right unless it conforms to the realities of its intended trajectory, or path. This is shaped by both external circumstances and intended purpose. In simpler terms that means something won’t be very good at doing a thing it wasn’t meant to do. A rocket flies because engineers account for aerodynamics and gravity. It was designed to meet the specifications needed to navigate external circumstances in order to reach an intended purpose along a planned trajectory. That is rocket science!

God designed you with a purpose in mind. You were built to fulfill his mission in this present reality. Until your life begins to match that purpose—until your desires, thoughts, and actions pursue His purpose—you will be out of sync with his path for you. Until you begin to do the thing you were meant to do everything else will seem underwhelming, unfulfilling, and incomplete.

What’s your trajectory? What’s your course? That is the path he has laid before you. That’s the destiny he wants to rocket you toward.

Have you known all along and been to afraid to engage? Don’t be afraid. Stop. Turn around. Run toward that burning fire in your bones. God put it there. It’s rocket fuel. His Spirit is alive in you pushing you past the point of your fears into the providential place of his purpose and plan.

Have you been inadvertently bouncing around like a pinball? Tilt the table. Lean into God. Ask for his help. Seek him. Say it out loud. Get a little mad about it and tell him how you feel. He knows already. Reject the apathy and confusion that you may have had. Go to the God who has the unmatched perspective. If you’re stuck let God get you out. He will send you right back on track.

You can’t fly a watermelon to the moon, but you can enjoy the sweet refreshing fruit inside. You can enjoy it’s intended purpose, but only by asserting an external force to reach the delicious fruit inside.

God is the architect of physics. He is the engineer of the principles that actually go into real rocket science. He is also the designator of your design. He planned you. He purposed you. He willed you.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was freaking out over the calamity and depravity the Jewish people were going through. Stuff they had brought on themselves through generations of neglecting their purpose. Here is what Jeremiah heard from God…

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” GOD ’s Decree. ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:10-13 ‭MSG‬‬

You get that? God decreed it. His plan for you comes from the same vocabulary as “let there be light” and “it is finished”.

God said it. God did it. His plan. His purpose. Your path.

PERU: DAY 1

 
I marveled at the near midnight colors of the clouds cutting across the wing on my side of our Boeing jet as we made our decent into Peru just a few short hours ago. Blues, greys, and intermittent flashes of red, orange, green, and white played across my narrow field of vision—and then it happened.
We broke the cloud line.

The mist-filled murkiness of our midnight approach into South American peeled away into a crystal clear visage of a sea of lights. Lima loomed below. Beautiful and beckoning at the end of an approximated 2,900 miles of flying.

We were here. Peru. Adventure and opportunity await. Prayer and planning have refined and pointed us toward our purpose. Let’s do this!