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Friday, July 18, 2008

Phil Me Up

Phil was on staff at the church I worked at in California. He was in his 50’s and had been around the block a few times. Every once in awhile, Phil would drop by my house after work with a couple of beers (at that time we were the only guys on staff that liked a good beer) and we would talk about life and ministry and God and church and family and what it meant to be a servant.

One day about 10 years ago, Phil and I returned from lunch and headed across the parking lot to the church building. We were talking when Phil made an abrupt stop. He went back about 15 steps and picked up a cigarette wrapper that was lying on the ground. I noticed he had tears in his eyes. He kept talking as if nothing had happened. At first I thought it was one of those weird things like that commercial in the 70’s where the Native American guy sees someone littering and starts to cry.

I asked Phil what the deal was. He said, “John, I am so disappointed in myself sometimes. I walked by that wrapper and thought I would just leave it there because the guys who clean the parking lot come in tomorrow morning and I would just let them get it.”

He walked by it thinking that it "wasn’t his job"—as if he was above picking up trash.

He told me the day he starts believing he is better than someone else or above some kind of service should be the day that God removes him from professional ministry.

Thing is . . . I walked by it too. I didn't consciously think about someone else picking it up but I certainly saw it.

Phil put a curse on me that day. I don’t think I’ve been able to walk past trash in ANY parking lot since! A piece of trash and a man who loves Jesus changed my perspective on service forever.

A few years later, we got a call in the church office. A semi-truck had jackknifed and crossed the line into oncoming traffic and took Phil’s life. At his funeral, I leaned over his casket and kissed the hand of a true servant.

A man who didn’t care who got the credit as long as things got done.

A man who didn’t find his identity in the spotlight.

He was a man who lived in such a way that you never had to wonder if he loved you or not. He wasn’t above anyone or anything.

Phil knew a not-so-secret-secret to fulfillment. God has shaped us for service.

Thinking about you today, Phil. I love you. I miss you.

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