Saturday, July 30, 2011

Joe Mayes, West Texas Preacher

This was a note to my pastor and dear friend recently when I was not at our weekly men's meeting to provide him with a Staff, Sword and Shepard's Crook. I was in charge of the Staff and the Sword, my close friend Brain Mathews handed over the Crook. He is an amazing leader caring and training up the men in our church to lead.

Joe Don Mayes,

Well I know if I was there with you guys this morning I would not be doing what we talk about many days there between 6 and 7:30, creating memories with our kids and wives, leading our families and showing them through our actions our love for them is a priority.

Joe Don, God has prepared you in so many ways to lead the Fellowship Church family right now and I know for you, looking back, you see it clearer than we do – but we know some of the stories, the life line – the trail you rode that brought you to this place, this morning, this group of men, your Band of Brothers and we know that you were lead by the Holy Spirit here to this place and time.

LT. Coronel Alan Stokes was known as a fighting soldier’s soldier during WW II. During one push behind the enemy lines he came up on a group of his soldiers outside an old farmhouse taking fire from the enemy inside – When he asked the commanding officer on site why he had not taken the farmhouse he was told “because they are shooting back at us”. He looked at his officer puzzled, he told him – “rally your men and fall in behind me – get ready to fight” he pulled his Army issue Colt .45, loaded it, then took a grenade in his other hand.

Then Stokes stood, yelled at the top of his lungs “ FORWARD” – and he charged through gunfire and smoke leading the squad to the house firing and throwing his grenade inside taking out the enemy gun that had held them at bay.

As they cleared the farmhouse and Stokes prepared to leave he turned to the commanding officer and said ”son, that is how you take the enemy” – and he left heading to the front lines. That day those soldiers saw the courage and leadership they needed to conquer the enemy that had them held down.

The Staff is our symbol that we will honor you, our elders and leadership – we will accept discipline and guidance from the God given authority that He placed in you and them through our church – we will learn, we will teach, we will lead by that example.

The Sword is a symbol of the warrior, the one who stands ready to die for the cause, to battle the enemy– to stand in the way of danger and oppression. It also hangs on the side of the guard at the gate and the mounted warrior horseback.

Shepards Crook - (Brian)

Many think we have spent the last three years in a battle for our church, our family. But they are wrong. Yes we had battles, but not every day has been at the front line – your men have held close – this group of warriors on Wednesday morning – we have grown in our walk with mighty leaps, through tears and laughter, brokenness and victories – together. You and Brian have trained us, been faithful in leadership – you have taught us by example – Today brother Joe Don Mayes, Pastor, Fellowship Church Southwest - We stand behind you – ready to follow your lead – ready to battle on all fronts for our church family – prepared to continue searching for the heart of Jesus with you and lead our families in God’s love and compassion – we are your Bonerges’ “ Son’s of Thunder – we are your Band of Brothers - - - “Let’s Roll” –

Mark 3: 13-17 - 13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

The Shuttle and Dead Shrimp are Part of Who I Am

On July 31, 2011 at 3:16 in the dark morning skies, the shuttle Atlantis came to a stop on the Cape Canaveral runway in Florida. Thirty years of inspiration and amazing space travel came to a close at that moment, and, for me, it was very emotional because I grew up in the center of the space program.

Mom and dad built a small but comfortable home in Nassau Bay back in the early ‘70s after moving us from the Bellaire area of Houston. Nassau Bay is a well appointed neighborhood south of Houston. Nasa Road 1 was the main drag running across the front of the development and is the main route to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center off Interstate Highway 45.

The neighborhood had lots of kids and young families. Parts of Galveston bay and a fresh water lake drew me and my gear loaded wagon to the water’s edge. Mom says I spent hours fishing and catching anything and everything.

I was in my early teens when we arrived on St. Charles Street, and my friendships were all new. Evans and I quickly became inseparable. He had two older brothers, and Wyatt became John’s, my older brother, friend. Evans and I spent so much time together it was not uncommon for one of our moms or dads to joke, “Why don’t you just get married?”

We did everything together -- good and bad. We build forts in Gaston’s woods, swam in the bay and snuck out to walk the neighborhood at night. Occasionally we would be wandering as the sun came up and see the milkman delivering to homes. With timing and precision we would sneak up on the unsuspecting homeowner’s porch and snag a half gallon for breakfast. Lord, forgive me for that and so many other sins in my youth.

The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were a huge time for the space program, and we were in the middle of it. NASA (the name before it was changed) was where it all happened. It was the control center and training facility for the astronauts on the ground and in space. Evans and I would walk over to the Space Center and explore. We would go into most any of the buildings, and I don’t remember ever being questioned or kept from exploring.

One of our favorite places was a news center with satellite dishes and all types of antenna on top of the hotel just cross from the Space Center. While the astronauts were in space, the news center would come alive and be broadcasting the news and reports. We would just walk in and watch it all happen. It was exciting.

Apollo 12 was the sixth manned flight in the American Apollo program and the second to land on the moon. It was launched on Nov. 14, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mission Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean performed just over one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit. There were six Apollo spaceflights; 12 men walked on the moon. These are the only times humans have landed on another celestial body. The Apollo program ran until 1975.

Tom Gordon was Astronaut Captain Dick Gordon’s son and a running buddy of mine and Evans. During many of the space flights, his parents would be gone and we would hang at his house and raid the fridge. I remember lots of cool things his dad had received as gifts from kings, presidents and leaders from around the world after his moon flight. One specific thing I remember was a rose dipped in pure gold -- it was way cool.

But as much as I wish I could say things for me back then were perfect, I have to admit they were not. I don’t know exactly what it was that got me off track, but I began to explore drugs and my school interest began to tumble. Things at home turned hard, and my father’s drinking began to take its toll.

Today as a dad and armed with my life story, I want to keep my family from experiencing a lot of the same hardships. I want so badly for them to have memories and life lessons from a father who clearly trusted God and strived for His guidance in every way. I want them to know that we all make mistakes and make bad decisions, no matter who we are. I want them to know it boils down to knowing a loving God and that each day they can push the restart button and try to do it better, with Him.

Of course the list of things we did back then is long and troubled. One particular day we had been fishing and throwing our casting nets out in the shallow bay. Small shrimp were a common catch and this one day we pocketed a few for later use. Mid-morning found us at the pancake house on Nasa Road 1, sitting at the counter drinking soda. A small voice on one of our shoulders, I really don’t remember whose, tricked us into putting the small dead shrimp in the ketchup bottle and putting the top back on before we left. I know that later, at some point, a waitress was angry, a cook was angry, a customer was mad. I confess and ask for forgiveness today as I write this. I promise to never do it again. Thank you, God, for Your grace each and every day. Man, do I need it.