Sunday, June 30, 2019

40 years ago. St Albans, Vermont. A young Preacher and his wife sit upon the front step of their new church. Built from stained wood, white siding, black shingles and scandalous love.

It was spring time and the snow was finally giving up its last breath only in the morning dew. The sap was running, and so were the people. Luckily for them the preacher and his wife were fast runners.

“Enough sitting” he said. “We’ve sat too long already.”

She agreed.

Being a nurse had given her the inside knowledge she needed to know that this town was the perfect place for her and this church.

Her patient smile that she always had when I skinned my knee on the gravel outside was enough to tell me that if anyone could bring peace here, it was her.

And we needed peace.

Sunday after faithful Sunday parishioners flooded in to the new church. The good news of the Gospel and the man that preached it drew them there faithfully.

But nothing this good lasts forever and after 25 years it was time to pass the candle on to the next minister.

This man was from Baltimore but the congregation soon forgave him for that and saw the true heart of God explained through his teaching.

And still the old preacher and his wife remained faithful parishioners themselves. Instead of the front row though as would be fitting for such a couple, they moved to the back to make more room for the growing church.

Also to make room for her wheelchair.

ALS is a friend to no one and not even a saint such as her was immune from it I guess.

In time the old preacher sat alone in the back, his wife no longer physically by his side.

But still he came.

The fiery preacher from Baltimore moved on and was replaced by the son of another Pastor. A soft spoken man that was passionate about the message.

Still the church grew bigger and still the old preacher remained. Until last month.

Cancer doesn’t care that you started a church. It doesn’t care that you’ve changed thousands of lives. It doesn’t care that you didn’t finish reading that one book you really wanted to get to.

Cancer doesn’t care that you gave me my first Bible.

But I do.

Thank you Pastor Yost. In a very real way, I owe you my eternal life.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Hitchhikers Guide to Salvation

Ever had one of THOSE days?

You know, the ones where your child who’s supposed to be in a ballet recital tonight gets sick all over the back seat of your van?

What do you do with those?

I didn’t have the answers either but what I did have was a crying 9 year old, an overly concerned 7 year old, and a sick 5 year old.

As my wife and I took turns calling people to let them know the tickets they paid for were still going to a great show with plenty of talented dancers I took a quick moment to ask...

God, what are you doing with this?

My 9 year old was asking the same thing but much more vocally.

“Why did God let this happen?!?”

“We paid good money for those tickets and Dee was really looking forward to her recital!”

I’m not sure where she heard the money thing before but the rest of her comments I echoed again.

God, what are you up to here.

No answer.

So I messaged a few people looking for something that my 9 year old and I could do, because what else do you do when you’re upset?

You go for a drive.

At least that’s what we do...

We met some friends down by the park and swung around on the playground for a while then went to dinner.

The sun was hot down by the bay and we sat outside on the patio for supper. Both still sighing and lamenting a bit over the fact that we didn’t get to see Dee do her ballet.

God, what ARE you up to?

At least she wasn’t saying it in frustration anymore. She was just enjoying chicken tenders and hand cut French fries.

Finally as we’re both sweating from the heat of the setting sun we finished up dinner and walked back down the beach to the car.

We start to drive home and I remembered that I wanted to get a gift card for food for a friend of ours so we pulled into the restaurant, walked in, and had a pleasant conversation with the lady at the counter about who this gift card was for.

“Sure sounds like a sweet family.”

“The sweetest.” I replied.

God, WHAT are you up to?

I’ve always found it a bit rude giving a gift card without a card explaining or celebrating the occasion so we made another stop, this time to Walmart, to get a nice card and a small gift bag.

I even let her decorate the bag once we got back in the car. A nice touch I might add because she’s a pretty talented designer for a 9 year old.

I get to their house and no one was home so we hang the gift bag from the door knob.

“Do you think they’ll see it?” She asks as we loop around their driveway.

“Oh yea, I bought a bright green bag for that very reason.”

“Wow! Never mind, they won’t miss THAT.” She says as we finally make it back out on the road from their driveway and it’s lit up like a beacon.

God, what are you up to?

With the play time over, dinner complete, and my mission to thank a friend over, we finally head back to the house.

It’s about a ten minute drive home from our friends house and it’s one I’ve made a hundred times before as it goes right by the house I grew up in.

These lilac covered Vermont Spring roads are home to me and I drink them in at every oppor.... wait, is that dude drunk?

He can’t even walk straight and he’s in the middle of the main road where the speed limit is 50mph.

I slow down.

“Are you ok Dadda?”

“Yea I’m just not really sure what’s up with that guy.”

She looks back, I keep driving.

The weight in my chest gets heavier and heavier telling me to turn around. I don’t really want to, I have my daughter in the car after all.

It is CRAZY to pick up people you don’t know with kids in the car.

“What are you doing, don’t turn around here!?!” The inner thoughts of my head continue even as I pull off to a spot that I can turn around.

“Are you going to go back and check on him Dadda?”

“Yes. Yes I am lady.”

“Ok...” she says meekly with a slight frown on her face.

I pull up in front of him. Great, he IS drunk.

“You alright?”

“Just trying to get home.”

“Need a ride? It’s quicker than walking.”

“You heading to Georgia?”

“I am if you need a ride.”

“Thanks man, I appreciate it. I’ve been walking for three hours already and I have another 20 miles.”

“No worries man, hop in.”

My daughter is still watching from the back.

God, what are you up to?

The ride was filled with laughter and questions from my daughter. It turns out we know some of the same good people and our kids are about the same ages.

After about 20 minutes he is successfully dropped off but probably locked out of his house.

“I can’t help with that.”

“No worries man, thanks for the ride.”

And just like that it’s time for us to go home again.

As we get on the interstate to head back home I hear my daughter from the back seat;

“Dadda, does God ever talk to you?”

“Well lady, the entire Bible is the word of God so in that respect yes. Sometimes I do feel a strong sense, like something inside of me is pressuring me to do things though too.”

“Like picking up that man?”


“I don’t think I’ve ever really feel that.”

“Well you have to ask Him into your heart before He will speak to you openly like that.”

“How do I do that?” she asks.

“Well it’s simple, and we can do it right now. Do you want to?”


“Then repeat after me; Dear Lord, thank you for all you do for us and thank you for today. I believe that you are my Savior. That you died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead. I pray that you would forgive me of my sins. I thank you that you died so that I can live forever with you. In Jesus name, amen.”

“Yay, that was it?” She says excitedly.

“Yes, you are now one of His sheep.”

“...but what if I sin again?”

“You will, and He will still love you.”


God I see what You’re up to, and You are wonderful.

As we pull in the driveway I say one last prayer to myself;

“Lord, thank you for being in control of my daughters life. Thank you for using sickness to bring about life. Thank you for good friends to play with, for good food to eat, for beautiful sunshine to keep us warm, for friends who care about us and for the ability to return their kindness. Thank you for the stranger I picked up that sparked a conversation with my daughter that saved her eternal life. Thank you for dying so that her soul will live forever. Thank you for being in control of my life, and hers, amen.”

God, I see what you did, and I am in awe.

Laurance McGraw V

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sometimes bed time also turns into Bible time. I usually play with the kids after their movie by racing to my bed and tickling all of them for a bit. This has become a common ritual but it also means they don’t usually like to calm down.

Tonight they were especially rowdy and after play time I told them they needed to stay quiet until Momma came in with the book and whoever made a noise would have to go into their room. Well, they all made noise and I told them they all had to go into bed.

The girls screamed at me to give them one more chance and Lance bowed his head, said sorry for not listening, and walked into his bedroom. I walked out and set the timer for 2 minutes and I waited while the girls kept blaming me for them missing their book and asking for one more try.

The timer went off and I went in and told the girls I had given them one more try and that the timer they just heard meant that they missed their second chance. If they had only listened to me telling them to go to their room I would have told them to come back out. So, since Lance was the only one that listened I told the girls to head into bed. They went grudgingly.

Once they were all in their bed I called them all back on my bed and we read from Genesis 18: 22-33 where God would have sparred the city for the sake of 10 righteous men thanks to Abraham interceding for them. Then I told the girls that because of the obedience of one person, I would spare their story time. Thanks to Lance, Momma will read them all a book.

It doesn’t always go this way, we aren’t perfect and the rest of the day went kind of rough but if I shared with you the rest of the temper tantrums, the raised voices, and the frustrating car rides then I’m not sure it would be as encouraging. Sometimes it’s little man who is having a rough time and the girls help him through it. We’re a messy family for sure. Just know that we have those times too but I just choose to focus on the good.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

My Dad
Tonight I had the pleasure of doing something that most people don’t do until their Father is near death, or even worse, dead.
Like a well rehearsed eulogy I got up, along with 2 of my brothers and said, “I forgive you.”
Thankfully he was around and in good health enough to hear it.
We then proceeded to spend the next 32 minutes letting other people that had been affected by our Dad speak words of life and affirmation to him.
It was awesome.
I encourage you to take time this Father’s Day to cook your Dad a meal, look him in the eye, and tell him you love him. It will change both of your lives for the better.
If you’re interested, I’ve attached my speech below. I think it’s even on camera somewhere but I have a face for radio with a voice for novel writing so be warned.
“Like many things in my life this dinner idea started when I read a book. It's a book by Robert Lewis titled "Raising a Modern Day Knight". It was a gift from a friend after a chat we had about my son.
Well as I started reading it things took an interesting turn in chapter two and instead of being about my son, it became about the relationship between my Father and I.
After reading it I turned to Becky and said something to the effect of "it's not that my Dad failed, it's just that I think there were a lot of missed opportunities, mainly because of his hidden addiction."
My Dad and I have a great relationship, especially now, but the book brought something to my attention. While we may have a great relationship, I've never actually TOLD him that I've forgiven him.
And words are freeing right?
I know my Dad isn't beholden to my lack of saying those words and I know he doesn't have to hear them to feel peace because I am not the peace maker.
But words are powerful enough, especially these words, that I wanted to pull my brothers together, cook a meal, honor my Dad, and tell him that I forgive him.
I also wanted my Teen Challenge brothers to be here for a couple reasons.
What you see before you today is the power of Jesus.
Forgiveness, restoration, honor, grace, humility, love, joy, peace, patience, and the list goes on.
I hope that someday your sons or daughters bring you to the table and say what I'm about to say to my Dad.
Christ can and does do this.
Secondly the missed opportunities from my invisible dad that the devil was hoping to use for evil, God has used for good.
Like Joseph in Genesis when he was sold into slavery in Egypt my father was sold into the slavery of addiction. He was thrown into a prison of his mind because of his sin, and there, in that prison God remembered him and called him out to lead the people of Teen Challenge.
So while I thought that I lost part of my Dad, I really didn't, you just gained him.
Now I know that everything still isn't perfect and I know that there are still years of famine ahead but I also know we are in good hands because God has given not only Teen Challenge a great leader and example, but he has given my family one too.
A man of God, who is doing the work of the Father.
I'm proud of you.
I love you.
And I forgive you.”