Friday, February 13, 2015

Big Brothers: Part 2

It's time to move on to my second big brother, Jim, actually the fifth child in our family after Pete and my three sisters. Jim was the oldest of what Mom often referred to as "the four little boys," the tail end of the line.

Before Jim was born, my mother, apparently unaware of what was coming down the road, asked God for a second son and promised to give him back to God as a minister. And so, when Jim came along, Mom and Dad named him "James Leslie," after two preachers that had been a great influence and blessing to them, James Hubbard and Leslie Fisher. Many years later, when Jim began to feel a sense of God's call on his life, Mom told him about the prayer she had prayed before his birth which God had honored and answered. Pretty cool, isn't it?

My earliest memories of Jim usually involved him losing his temper. It's hard to believe now, but Jim was a very volatile young man. He could flame up and go off in a heartbeat. So, the rest of us learned pretty quickly when to watch out and when to run for our lives. In fact, when Jim brought Bettie Jo home the first time or two, we all cringed and said, "My gosh, now there's two of them," because she had a little temper, too. But apparently, through the years Jim and Bettie Jo beat it out of each other, because no one who knows them now can imagine either one ever blowing up. I guess they tamed each other.

Like Pete before him, Jim was my Little League baseball coach for two years. Sometimes he and I would ride bikes to morning practices and sometimes Jim drove. Either way, we usually stopped by the donut shop on the way. I usually got a long john out of the deal. Then, when we got to the park, Jim would send everybody on a long lap around the tennis courts while he finished off the donuts in the dugout.

In high school, Jim played football, though he was not a big guy. He played several positions, both offense and defense, and one year he decided he also wanted to be the place kicker. Keep in mind I was just approaching junior high, dreaming of playing real football and always begging my older brothers to play with me. All of a sudden Jim began to say, "Okay, I'll play with you." I was thrilled.

We would go out in the yard and Jim would say, "Here, hold the ball for me so I can kick it." I would hold it, he would kick it as far as he could and then say, "Go get it." I'd bring it back and Jim would say, "Hold it again." He kicked it, I ran after it again. I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I fetched the ball for Jim. I just wanted to play so bad, sort of like Charlie Brown, I just kept coming back for more. By the way, Jim sucked as a kicker in spite of my best efforts.  

Some of you may recall that Jim was once a rock star, singing lead and playing guitar in a "Jesus" band in the 1970s. "Heaven Bound" then morphed into "Alpha and Omega," but they sounded pretty much the same- loud! They rewrote songs by groups like Credence Clearwater Revival and Three Dog Night, and cranked it up to full volume. Dad let them have a concert at the church in Windsor once. I still remember the dim lights, the puffy-sleeved shirts, the platform shoes, and most of all, the shocked expressions on lots of faces. But the band played on. 

When I was in high school and college and seminary, just getting started in ministry, Jim let me follow him around inviting me to come try to speak or preach. I spoke at the church Jim served in Iberia, one of my first ministry road trips. And when Jim started a new church in Blue Springs (Duncan Road Baptist Church), he and BJ were having church in their home, a two car garage converted into a sanctuary. I remember preaching with my back against the wall and about 70 people crowded into that garage for worship. It was then that I began to see what is truly remarkable about my big brother, Jim. He is an uncommon leader, visionary and determined, the kind of guy that people place their confidence in and want to follow.

Years later, I visited the new church that Jim started in St. Louis (South County Baptist Church) and I watched as his enthusiastic bunch of folks took over an elementary school, hauling in all the needed tables, chairs, and equipment to set up church every week. They even brought in two huge air conditioners on a flatbed trailer along with a generator and lots of flexible duct work and in a matter of minutes cooled down that stifling gym for summertime worship. Now, what kind of leadership inspires that kind of effort? Jim's kind.

Jim has also set an example of how a leader handles unjust criticism and unchristian behavior on the part of those who should know better. Trying to lead in Baptist life in these days of mistrust and polarization is generally a losing proposition. Jim was able to give his very best to Missouri Baptists and to walk away with his integrity intact and his conscience clear. And as you might expect, Jim continues to invest his life in a variety of ways, making a difference for the Kingdom.

As Larry Norman, another Jesus rocker from the 70s, put it, "I been knocked down, kicked around, but like a moth drawn to the flame, here I am, talking 'bout Jesus just the same."

Now, that's a big brother, isn't it, one who has taught me much along the way. I'll still hold the ball for you, Jim. Keep on kicking.

1 comment:

Wm Clark said...

excellent. I was always a little afraid of Jim when I was little and we would visit and it has been marvelous watching him follow in your dad's and Pete's footsteps. He is definitely a leader and has stood by his principles very consistently. Very good piece Drew.