Thursday, August 21, 2003

August 21, 2003

6:36 PM Here’s the Legacy Campaign prayer request for today: “Praise God for being the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).”

This Sunday I’ll be speaking the “Billy Sunday” text—2 Timothy 4:6-8. The title of the sermon is “Finishing Well.” Proclaim will be singing in the contemporary services. Come early and be ready for an up-tempo service of praise to the Lord.

4:37 PM Florence, Alabama. Arrived here a few minutes ago after a two-hour drive from Birmingham. Yesterday was hectic and exhausting. We arrived on the Samford campus a few minutes after ten AM. First impressions: Truly beautiful, built on a tree-covered hillside overlooking Birmingham. The red brick buildings cascade down the side of the mountain. Nick will definitely stay in shape just walking to and from class. He’s in a dorm more or less at the top of the campus and everything else is below him. We moved him in by noon, ate at the campus food court, orientation started at 1 PM. They crammed two days into one afternoon—speaker after speaker after speaker. I was impressed by the quality of the leaders who spoke. I suppose every college says, “We care about our students,” but not all of them mean it. You get the feeling at Samford that they really do care. Samford is a Southern Baptist university—about 4400 students, 162 years old. As I have mentioned, it’s a lovely setting for a college. I smiled when I thought how if you live long enough, everything will come around again. When I was growing up in Russellville, Alabama, my pastor, Dr. J.O. Colley, was on the board of Samford. Thirty-three years ago he offered to help me get a scholarship if I would go there. I went elsewhere, but a third of a century later, my youngest son is a Samford freshman. The univerity motto is, “For God, for learning, forever.” Last night Nick slept in the dorm and we stayed at a local motel. We saw Mark and Karen and John Mark Edwards several times.

This AM Marlene helped Nick with a few last-minute details while I paid a visit to the Lifeway Christian Store several miles away. Then I met them at the food court and we had Chick Fil-A for lunch (absolutely the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had). Back to the room, last-minute details. “Do you need anything?” Running through the checklist: books purchased, computer installed, clothes put away, portable vacuum tested, parking decals affixed. One final detail: Nick’s new cell phone says “Cingular Extended” instead of “Cingular.” But my cell phone says “Cingular.” Nick and I sat and cracked jokes while Marlene made a phone call to solve the problem. Not completely solved but we know what to do. Eventually the moment comes when you have to leave. You know it because everyone just stops talking. We’ve done all we can do, checked all we can check, talked everything over two or three times. Nothing to do but say goodbye. Marlene was tearing up (I was to) so I started singing, “Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our family.” Nick looked at me and started smiling and we started clapping to the Mickey Mouse song. Then Marlene joined in and we were all sort of laughing and trying to hold it together at the same time. Then to the car. Final goodbyes. Off we went.

Later Nick called Mark and left a message saying, “Mom and Dad just left. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. But they were crying like babies.” Well, not exactly. But it was tough. And now we’re moving forward. We’re here in Florence with my brother Andy, his wife Betty, and their daughters, Megan and Kathleen. Then tomorrow to Nashville to visit Mark (Marlene’s brother) and Ruth Wolery. Then back to Oak Park on Saturday. The whole trip has been exhausting in some ways but I’m glad I could come along. I had been scheduled to speak for Word of Life in the Czech Republic this week, but the conference was canceled two months ago, freeing me up to make this trip. Meanwhile, orientation at Samford is in full swing—tons of fun for all the freshmen for the next three days. 

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