During the first week of my Freshman year at Howard Payne College (now University), in Brownwood, Texas, I was walking from class to the Cafeteria when suddenly there was someone walking beside me. She said, “Hi! My name is Betty.” I replied, “Hi! My name is Dan.” She said, “ I know. I worked at Glorieta Conference Center this summer and some of your friends told me about you.” The next time I saw Betty was at church on Sunday morning. Along with approximately a dozen other students, Betty and I both joined Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, where they had an “Adopt a Student” program. A family came forward announcing, “We want to adopt a boy and a girl; a brother and a sister.” They took Betty and me. Having always wanted a sister, now Betty was the sister I never had. For the next four years, I watched my adopted sister be a sister with many students, especially international students, studying far from home, needing a friend. Then we both graduated, and it appeared our special relationship would end. I enrolled in Southwestern Seminary, but who lived in an apartment on Seminary Drive, but my adopted sister, Betty. For the next sixty-three years, we remained adopted “brother and sister.” Along with our spouses, we re-united while living in Austin for six years, and later in Fort Worth, for eighteen years. We served together on the Alumni Board of Directors of our alma mater and enjoyed our visits during annual college Homecoming events through the years. Last week, I participated in the memorial service for Betty Ann Fowler Smith who had gone to her eternal home. But our relationship still has not ended. Since “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family” (Ephesians 1:5, NLT), Betty and I will someday, be brother and sister again in God’s forever family. See you, Sis!
I stopped by the Surgical Center recently to pay a visit to a long-time friend who was recovering from surgery. We met in our 20s, when we were both newly graduated, newly employed, newlywed, newly Dad. Our paths crossed many times through the years. We talked often, shared a meal occasionally, prayed together frequently, even reminisced from time to time, using one of God’s greatest gifts, the gift of memory. Many of our conversations began with, “Remember when . . .” Glad we’ve lived long enough to need surgeons, prescriptions, lab technicians, therapist, etc. A lot of our mutual friends have moved on to their eternal reward, perhaps even thinking that we didn’t make it. We will join them soon enough. We’ve checked all the boxes, and turned the future over to Jesus. As soon as our houses – “not make with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1), are completed, we will be ready to move in. We’ll move our membership to the Church Eternal, where once again, we’ll know all the songs. Meanwhile, we’ll just keep sharing memories, even if we have to meet at a Surgical Center to do so.
Ever wish you were like someone else? I am healing from my tenth MOHS (skin cancer) surgery, this one on my forehead, right between the eyes. I’ve had others on both sides of my face and on my nose, even one on my temple. accompanied by six weeks of radiation. I asked the Surgeon why. His answer was simple – “fair skin and Texas resident.” I tried to blame it on my mother, remembering her words, “Go outside! Take off your shirt! Get some sun!” It wasn’t her fault. She was only offering advice based on her training as a Registered Nurse. She knew I needed the Vitamin D provided by the sun. My Surgeon further took my mother off the hook, by adding, “You can go to the mall, park on the edge of the parking lot, walk across the lot into the air-conditioned buildings, and if you’re not wearing a hat, you’ll get skin cancer as you walk.” So, I’ve given up golf, daytime sports events, trips to the beach, yard work (thank you, Jesus), and trips to the mall, replacing all of this with multiple micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D3. I’m just a Jacob, wishing I was an Esau (Genesis 27:11).
Before Dallas had the Cowboys or Houston had the Oilers, back when I was a treen-anger growing up in Houston, I was a Green Bay Packers fan. Why? From childhood I was told I would be attending Baylor University, so I grew up loving the green and gold. Then I chose to attend elsewhere, and Dallas and Houston secured football teams. The effect of this love of green and gold made me a supporter of the underdog. Also, my own football career, such as it was, ended with an accident-related broken second vertebrae of the neck, but prior to that, I always played on an underdog team. According to Wikipedia, an “underdog is a person or group in a competition, usually in sports and creative works, who is largely expected to lose.” Perhaps all of this is why I was so open to being a Jesus follower. I was a no one, until The One, made me a someone. A few verses were helpful to me in those underdog days:
- “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Ephesians 4:13)
- “So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16)
- “But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
- “If God is on our team, who can play against us?” (Romans 8:31, from a translation I can no longer find.)
So, all you underdogs, it’s time to overcome.
Two years ago, I had never heard of a Podcast. Then I was asked to be the guest on several and I determined that this was not too difficult for a man my age to learn. About this time, I was invited by new friends Vidal and Josue Muñiz (father and son) to allow them to assist me with a Podcast based on my teaching ministry with the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Together we have learned a multitude of new things. With Vidal as my co-host and Josue taking care of all the technology, we have re-formatted our “Discipleship Directives” Podcast in order to link it to my corporation – Disciple All Nations, Inc. based on Matthew 27:19-20. To view the YouTube version and possibly subscribe, go to https://www.youtube.com/@Dr.DanCrawford. I’m not sure if you can actually teach an old dog new tricks, but I am proving you can teach an old man, new methods.
So, I had another birthday recently. Let me explain to you youngsters what that means. Two months ago I was diagnosed with Acute Sinusitis. It took a month full of medications and a few cancelled events for me to beat it. Well, I didn’t really beat it. When it left my nose and I stopped the uncontrollable coughing, it settled in my left ear. This time the diagnosis was Eustachian Tube Dysfunction, meaning I have zero hearing in that ear. Next week, I will complete four rounds of antibiotics plus various rinses and sprays. If I am still missing my hearing, my doctor (I’ve actually seen three doctors and two PAs in the last six weeks) will decide if I need a Scan of some kind to determine if surgery is needed to remove polyps in the ear canal. Meanwhile, a skin-cancer showed up on my forehead. A biopsy revealed another Basil cell on top of where two earlier ones had been. I have been referred to a Surgeon for my tenth MOHS surgery. I hear someone saying, “Yeah, but you are retired so have nothing else to do.” Next week I have a preaching assignment and I leave for my monthly teaching session with pastors and church leaders in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. All the while, many of my friends and family are already in heaven thinking I didn’t make it In 1976, Ralph Carpenter, a Dallas newsman announced at a close basketball game, “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Well, my young friends, pay no attention to her. She’s just warming up. The Apostle Paul, who had a few aging issues himself, wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” So, three cheers for the inward man. In the words of that great philosopher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
I have written before of the 16th century Japanese “Forgetting the Year” Party, where participants brought the past year calendars to the party and destroyed them. We sentimental folks prefer keeping our old calendars in order to look back and reflect. We gain insight as well as strength from past experiences. However, there is something to be said also for destroying the old calendars. While 2023 brought many blessings, not the least of which were many new friendships, both from my interim pastorate at Trinity Hills Baptist Church in Benbrook as well as my monthly teaching of church leaders in the Rio Grande Valley, the year brought its share of heartaches – illness and death of family members and close friends, personal health struggles, and just the issues that go with aging. So, there are parts of 2023 that I would like to forget, and there are parts I would like to cherish. Had there been such a thing as a “Forgetting the Year” party in the days of the Apostle Paul, he might have attended, since there were things in his past he would have liked to forget. But there were also things in his future that excited him. So, he wrote, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). As we begin 2024, join me as we press on.
December is a special month for me for several reasons. My grandfather Crawford’s birthday was Dec. 2. My Dad’s birthday was Dec. 19. His sister’s birthday (my Aunt) was Dec. 22. My birthday is Dec. 30. On December 7, I was in an automobile wreck and sustained a broken second vertebrae of the neck, re-directing my plans for the future. As I lay in the hospital with doctors calling me a miracle (should have been either killed or paralyzed according to them), I made friends with Hospital Chaplain, Joe Fred Luck, and determined that God had spared my life to be a Hospital Chaplain. That, of course, changed during my Seminary student years, but to this day, I look back on those December weeks in the hospital as a significant turning point in my life. Of course December is also the month when, on Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. So here are five of my favorite Christmas quotes:
- “Christmas is a togethery sort of holiday. That’s my favorite kind.” Winnie the Pooh
- “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney
- “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Bob Hope
- “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale
- “For unto us a child is born, to us a a son is given.” Isaiah 9:6
The fact that I lived in six towns and attended fourteen schools before I met my wife, prepared me for a life of transitions, but I just wasn’t sure about her. She had lived in one town and three houses all her pre-college years. Could she handle six towns, fourteen houses, plus travel to all fifty states, every Canadian Province, and fifty-nine countries? Not only has she done it, she turned out to love it, except that in many places, she didn’t want to leave so soon. Last week was a delight for her. Of all the places we have been, Germany ranks way up toward the top. Joanne even claimed and proved to have distant relatives in Germany. So last week was extra special for her. We took my Teaching Assistant Andreas and his wife Anna out to dinner and then to our house for dessert and fellowship – actually, lots of talk about Germany, since that is their home country. Two nights later we hosted IMB Missionaries who live in Bonn, Germany and who have been serving as Missionary Guest Professors at SWBTS this semester. Again, lots of talk about Germany, especially since I taught for a semester sabbatical plus a few short-term sessions at the Bible Seminary in Bonn. As we approach our sixtieth wedding anniversary this summer, and as our globe-trotting begins to slow down, I give thanks that God matched me with a wife who not only loved to travel but has made friends all over the globe. I am extremely grateful that “what God . . . joined together” (Matthew 19:5) has been a delightfully good thing.
Last week, seventy students received graduation certificates from the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. As their Professor, I would have ordinarily been the one to hand them their certificate, then pose for their picture with me. However, due to a covid-like sinusitis, I was stuck at home, lest I give them more than a certificate. The following Sunday, I was to lead a prayer emphasis at a church in Kentucky, but the same medical diagnosis caused the pastor and I to opt for a re-scheduling. Not sure why, but one of the things I dislike the most about ministry is having to cancel a commitment. Until my recent, Senior-adult years, I almost never did such a thing. A commitment made was a commitment kept. However, the years take their toll on a body, and lately my pharmacist and I have been on a first-name basis. I had the Covid test administered three times and showed negative all three times. I even failed a chest x-ray. But still I coughed and blew, and sneezed, and drained, etc. All of this reminds me of an earlier stretch when I had seen my doctor way too frequently, causing him to comment that we needed to just meet somewhere for coffee and discuss reformed theology. He didn’t laugh when I replied, “For you, that will be a $25 co-pay.” To my young readers, take this as a foretaste of things to come. To my fellow, senior-adult readers, well, you know . . . This scripture now is stuck over my desk, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4).