Author: Russell Lightner

Sometimes the waiting room is the best classroom when it comes to prayer

Prayer frequently requires waiting. The trouble is, we’re not patient. In fact, Americans are so impatient that recent studies can pinpoint what we’re most impatient about and how long it takes us to grow agitated when waiting. 

For instance, the majority of us grow quickly irritated with slow Wi-Fi. It’s our No. 1 complaint, guaranteed to ignite our impatience. In addition, on average, we find it intolerable to wait as much as 10 minutes for sluggish customer service. 

Do people of prayer reflect the power of prayer when ordinary circumstances test the fragile limits of our patience? Our impatience reminds us of the oft repeated adage, “Man microwaves, but God marinates.”

Waiting has a bad reputation in America, but Scripture is filled with positive examples of waiting. For instance, Isaiah reminds us that if we wait on God we will fly like eagles and run without exhaustion (Isaiah 40:31). Jesus instructed His eager but powerless disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). The psalmist testified that the Lord heard his cries only after he was willing to wait (Psalm 40:1). Many of the biblical invitations to wait are directly connected to prayer.

It sounds extreme, but waiting is an inescapable factor in a praying life. In fact, Jesus insisted that we learn the discipline of waiting in prayer.

Waiting has a bad reputation in America, but Scripture is filled with positive examples of waiting.

In one of His most well-known parables in which He taught the importance of patience in prayer, Jesus contrasted a powerful, malevolent judge to a vulnerable, abused widow (Luke 18:1-8). The judge in the parable had no compassion for the widow’s legal or personal complaints. The widow, on the other hand, refused to stop showing up to court to demand justice. Finally, the corrupt judge conceded because the widow refused to stop asking for his assistance. 

Jesus contrasted the heartless judge to our loving God by demonstrating that, unlike the crooked judge, God desires to answer the cries of His people—the people Jesus compared favorably to the persistent widow. The parable is introduced with this instructive preamble, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

From this well-known text we notice some principles about patience in prayer. Sometimes the waiting room is the best classroom.

Wait in prayer even when the outcome appears unlikely

The two characters in the parable—a widow and the judge—were on opposite ends of the power and privilege scale in ancient society. The judge was a local official with authority appointed by Rome. The widow was a symbol of vulnerability in Scripture; she had no social standing. This widow had only one power—persistence! Jesus described her as one “who kept coming.” The tense of the Greek verb means continuous, repeated action. 

Her request was ignored numerous times, but she kept making the appeal. The frequency of her appeals in the face of the judge’s indifference toward her plight is a reminder to us of a basic principle of prayer: God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials. There is nothing in the circumstances of the story that suggest the widow had a chance of success, except for her persistent asking.

Wait in prayer because God hears

In the parable, the widow’s persistence won the judge over. Her resilience wore down his reluctance. Jesus urged His followers to cry out in unceasing prayer, because God will intervene for those who “cry to Him day and night” (v. 7).  

No matter how much time passes between our request and God‘s response, we should never conclude that God does not care. God wants to respond. God wants to answer. In His perfect timing, no matter how long we’ve waited, no matter how big the long shot, God answers prayer. He specializes in results that can be achieved in no other way.

Wait in prayer because an answer is coming

When does waiting in prayer reach a conclusion? Jesus said God will answer His pleading people “speedily” (v. 8). In other words, God’s answer comes suddenly. Why is it necessary to wait if the answer comes suddenly?

The Greek word translated “speedily” occurs in the New Testament seven times. It is obviously a reference to a narrow window of time. Three of the usages of the word refer to a speedy or sudden action in time. The other four usages of the word refer to the nearness in time of the action. Those instances are translated with words like “shortly” or “soon” (Acts 25:4, Romans 16:20, etc.). 

In any case, the word means that action is imminent. God will answer. You are justified in waiting, because when the answer comes it will be in a timely manner. So, our job is to prayerfully wait on God’s timing. 

Perhaps the testimony of George Müller best exemplifies our goals in patient prayer. He said, “When once I am persuaded that a thing is right, and for the glory of God, I go on praying for it until the answer comes.” If your classroom is the waiting room, God is teaching you. So, keep praying!

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Baptist Press.

How in the world can I bless God?


e often think about blessings in terms of possessions, things received. It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “God blessed us with this house” or, “She was blessed to receive a scholarship”—and let’s be clear, we’re not wrong when we credit God (which is to say, give Him glory) for the things we have.

But thinking about blessings merely in terms of possessions can skew our understanding of what Scripture means when we see instances of humans blessing God. For example, we find this command frequently in the psalms. Psalm 96:2 and Psalm 100:4 instruct us to bless the name of the Lord. Psalm 103:2 and Psalm 104:1 form the basis of what has famously been put to music: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”

Obviously, there’s no possession I can give to the God of creation who owns the cattle on 1,000 hills. So how in the world can I bless God?

These questions hit me hard recently in a most unexpected place—the gym. As I was working out, the song “Promises” by Maverick City began to play through my headphones. I’ve heard—and sung—this song more times than I can count, but for some reason, a couple of lines impacted me differently than they had before: 

I’ll still bless you—in the middle of my storm, in the middle of my trial, 

I’ll still bless you—in the middle of the road, when I don’t know where to go …

His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is God, and He is doing something good.

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. There have been no major crises, but instead, a series of annoying challenges that have been labor-intensive, attention-hogging, and frustrating to say the least. We all experience these kinds of challenges—they don’t typically change the course of our lives, but they threaten to dislodge us from comfort and disrupt whatever plans we’ve made for ourselves. Nobody wakes up and says, “You know, Lord, I’d love a little more adversity to toughen me up this week,” and yet we know God absolutely uses storms and trials to achieve His purposes.

Pain and discomfort tend to make us forget those truths, and I certainly have been guilty of that lately. My complaints have been numerous enough to fill a football stadium. If pouting was an Olympic sport, I’d be well on my way to gold. I’ve asked God why these things had to happen right now (as if there’s a different time I’d gladly accept difficulty). And as I lay in the gym floor between sets that morning, I felt like the Lord reminded me of something: out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. 

So what does all this have to do with blessing God? I think one of the primary ways we can bless God is through faith. Not the kind of faith that saves us, but the kind of faith that sustains us—the kind that says, “Lord, I don’t like this but I know you are at work, and I trust whatever work that is.” This is the kind of faith that delivers the peace Jesus promises. 

How can you bless God today? Trust Him—and bless Him by telling Him you trust Him. You don’t have to like what He is doing, and His shoulders are certainly big enough for you to be honest with Him about that, but in the end, His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is God, and He is doing something good. 

Setting your house in order

We may not have much control over when we leave this planet, but we do have a say in how we leave and the impact it will have on our families. When King Hezekiah became terminally ill, the prophet Isaiah said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die’” (2 Kings 20:1).

Abraham is an even better example of how to put our houses in order because he didn’t have a heads-up like Hezekiah—and neither do we. I can think of at least three ways Abraham showed us how to put our houses in order:

Update your financial affairs

Very few people can relate to the size of Abraham’s vast estate, but we all have something of value to leave our family. Sentimental value is as important to some people as financial value. I have too often seen friction surface during a time of grief, which is always unfortunate and usually avoidable.

 A 2013 survey conducted by LifeWay Research found 37% of Southern Baptist Convention pastors do not have a trust or will of any kind. More than half (55%) of all Americans will die without a will or trust, according to the American Bar Association. Almost half do not have any life insurance for that matter. 

Scripture instructs us this way: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). 

Abraham’s sons had an awkward reunion at their father’s funeral. Neither dickered over the details because Abraham had it all pre-arranged (Genesis 25).


of SBC pastors do not have a trust or will of any kind

—Lifeway Research


of all Americans will die without a will or trust

—American Bar Association

Formalize your funeral plans 

Some pastors don’t like to talk about death, which is strange considering how often we help others through it. You don’t have to like death to get ready for it. The fewer decisions your family must make when you die, the better.

Shortly after Abraham’s wife Sarah died, he not only bought a funeral plot, but he also bought a whole cemetery! It was a nice cave, which was the upscale equivalent in that culture. Many family members were likely buried in Abraham’s family cemetery, including his great-grandson, Joseph. 

Does your family know what your funeral preferences and plans are? A few minutes of your time will save several tough hours for your family. 

Mend your family fences

Abraham did not have a perfect track record, especially at home. He lied to, and about, Sarah more than once. Sarah pushed him into fathering an illegitimate child because they both grew tired of waiting for one. Favoritism between sons ran rampant and became a family tradition, which was passed down to succeeding generations.

Pastors are called to lead their homes as well as their churches. Since your family is your most important ministry, what do you need to do to put your house in order? Abraham’s family benefited not only from how he lived, but also how he died, as can yours.

In new Criswell book, Hawkins examines the life of a man who impacted millions

A man for many seasons

O.S. Hawkins is chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and president emeritus of GuideStone Financial Resources. He has authored more than 50 books, including the latest, Criswell: His Life and Times. Hawkins recently spoke with Southern Baptist Texan magazine about why he chose to write about the legendary W.A. Criswell and how others can benefit from learning about his life.

You’ve described W.A. Criswell as a friend and mentor. Can you talk about the impact he had on you personally and why you decided to write a book about his life? 

O.S. Hawkins: I first met him back when I was a kid. In my generation he was legendary, and for some reason early on, he took a liking to me and we developed a warm friendship. I just considered him a great mentor and, in many ways, he was like a father to me. … Really the reason I wrote the book was he was a polarizing figure in many ways, and there has been so much written about him from people who were adversarial to him, whether it was because of theological or philosophical reasons, and then there were other things written that [portrayed him as being] sort of almost without sin. So, what I tried to do was bring balance to his life and also to introduce him to a new generation of preachers who may not have known him in his greatness.

How might pastors who don’t know as much about Criswell’s life be encouraged or even equipped by some of the things you included in this book?

Hawkins: They will see that education is important. They will see that in the first 10 years of his pastorate, he pastored little bitty churches in far-away places. It gave him a love for pastors. There are a lot of stories in the book about that. He ended up leading the largest church in the world for years at First Baptist Dallas, and he had no peer in his prime—I mean, no peer. But he never got away from loving pastors.

I also believe the title of the book, Criswell: His Life and Times, is important because this book is not just for pastors. It’s for everyone who’s interested in leadership or interested in history. It’s about his times. Dr. Criswell lived in every decade of the 20th century, and there’s a chapter on each of these decades throughout the whole book that really describes the times in which he lived. So many things were swirling around the culture in America through World War I, through World War II, through all of these decades that unfolded. So, it’s really a book about Baptist history, Texas history, American history. It’s not just about Criswell. It’s about the times in which he lived and loved and ministered.

What kinds of insights about Criswell will readers walk away with that might inspire them or even change the way they look at the world? 

Hawkins: Well, I would say one thing that gets lost in the midst of all of his notoriety was how much he loved people. He’s known as a great preacher and theologian, but what many people don’t know is what an incredible pastor he was and how much he loved his people—and they loved him back. He’d often weep when he preached and the people would weep with him. It was amazing.

He was an eternal optimist in many ways, which we need in Baptist life today. He was naive in the sense that, even in the midst of the great Baptist battles of his life, it never dawned on him that [certain] people didn’t like him or didn’t love him. He was above the fray in the fact that he didn’t hold any personal animosity. He had a unique ability to realize that things are going to get better and that nothing lasts forever. Whatever he was going through, he moved forward knowing this too will pass, and he would hunker down and move on.

He owned his mistakes, which a lot of people don’t do, and he was open about them and he sought to recover from them. And then, of course, you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die, and I didn’t see anyone ever die like he died. I mean, he died with such a sweet spirit. He would wake up his caretaker in the middle of the night preaching the gospel in his sleep.

He was such a unique individual. Had he gone into law, I think he probably would’ve been on the Supreme Court. Had he gone into business, he’d have built a Fortune 500 company. If he’d gone into politics, he’d have been a senator, maybe president of the United States. He was just a unique individual, greatly gifted by God. And yet he never lost the childlike wonder of it and the work of it. He never lost the wonder of God’s creation. I’ve never known anyone that loved the Lord and depended upon Him and consistently lived for Him and served Him like W.A. Criswell. All he ever wanted to do was pastor a local congregation of baptized believers.

Making an eternity of difference a world away

Bruno Molina, language evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, got good news a couple of months ago. Let’s just say it was good news about the good news. 

Molina received notification that the SBTC’s 1Cross app had been used to share the gospel with somebody in India. In response, that person made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ—11 years to the day the app was launched by the SBTC right here in Texas.

The 1Cross app was developed as a tool churches and individuals can use to share the gospel in nearly 70 languages, including many you’ve probably heard of (Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian) and maybe a few you haven’t (Pokomo, Zomi, Luhya-Bukusu, and Gujarati). Each video includes a gospel presentation that can be downloaded or shared, and there’s even a gospel presentation in English.

“We have had the joy of seeing God use the 1Cross app to bring people to Christ both in the U.S. and abroad,” Molina said. “On one occasion, a Korean student at Southwestern Seminary used the app to lead a Spanish-speaking Mexican man to Christ and we were able to connect him to a church in Fort Worth. On another occasion, I recall with gratitude that one of our SBTC churches went on a mission trip to Thailand and led two people to Christ that I was able to connect to a Baptist church in Bangkok. Praise the Lord!”

Likewise, Molina said he was able to forward the person’s name who got saved in India to an International Mission Board leader there to help connect that person to a local church.

Investing in the generation that could change the world


recently took my youngest son fishing. We make memories I cherish every time we get the opportunity to go. These trips are often filled with laughter, serious discussions about life, and occasionally a few fish. On this particular trip, my son and I were in the boat talking about all kinds of things when it dawned on me how fast he has grown up and how quickly time goes by. 

The same week, I was scheduled to speak at a conference about reaching the next generation. I had been studying Psalm 78 about passing the truths of God to the next generation. A recent poll conducted by North American Mission Board Next Gen Director Shane Pruitt showed that 77% of believers became Christians by age 18. This ignited a passion deep in my heart to reach the next generation. 

Psalm 78 is an incredible chapter full of great instruction. Allow me to share three things we must teach the next generation: 

1. We must teach them of the goodness of God

Psalm 78:2-4 says, “I will declare wise sayings; I will speak mysteries from the past—things we have heard and known and that our ancestors have passed down to us. We will not hide them from their children, but will tell a future generation the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, His might, and the wonderous works He has performed.” We must continually teach the next generation how good God has been to us. He is faithful, and we need to pass this on to our children.

2. We must point them to the hope God brings

Verses 5-7 say, “He established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel which He commanded our ancestors to teach their children so that a future generation—children yet to be born—might know. They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands.” The enemy is after the minds and hearts of the next generation. As individuals, families, and churches, we must point them to the hope Jesus gives us. We must be intentional about sharing the gospel every chance we get. They must know the only hope for peace and eternal life is found in Jesus.

3. We must teach them to know and love the Word of God

Verse 7 tells us we do these things so they would not forget the works of God and so they would keep His commands. We must teach the next generation that the Word of God must be their roadmap for life. It must be what they stake their entire lives upon. It is the inerrant and infallible Word breathed out by God! One of my mentors used to say, “It’s not enough to get in the Word; you have to get the Word inside of you.” Let’s be intentional to teach the Bible to the next generation.

The enemy is like a lion that wants to destroy the next generation. He will do whatever he can to grab their hearts and minds. Let’s rise up and be committed to share the gospel, make disciples, and teach them the Word of God. They could be the generation that changes the world. 

K-12 school infuses new life into Arcadia First Baptist Church in South Texas

Afather dropped his daughter off at Arcadia First Baptist Christian School in Santa Fe and walked back to his car. 

“I saw him look back at the office,” Pastor Joshua McDonald said, recounting what he saw watching out the window that day. “He was getting back in his car, and he shook his head and he just walked straight to the office.”

The man had no history of church involvement, but his daughter, an elementary student, had placed her faith in Jesus at the school and had been baptized at Arcadia First Baptist Church about six months earlier. The father sat down with McDonald and poured out his heart.

“She’s been telling us about the gospel, and I believe in Jesus now, and I want to know how I can do this.”

“He was like, ‘Man, I’ve seen a change in my daughter. She’s been reading the Word of God, she got saved, she got baptized. She’s been telling us about the gospel, and I believe in Jesus now, and I want to know how I can do this,’” McDonald said.

The man was baptized and the pastor gave him a Bible with his name on it—the first Bible he has ever owned. 

“Now he’s in my small group and he’s growing by leaps and bounds, studying the Word every day,” McDonald said.

As many as 100 members of Arcadia First Baptist have died during the past five years since McDonald has been pastor, the inevitable reality of an aging congregation. Yet Sunday attendance has grown from about 200 when he arrived to more than 300 now. 

“Probably 50 to 60 of those are kids,” McDonald said.

One of the ways God has pumped new life into the church is through its Christian school, training about 150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in addition to a daycare with 200 children. What once was viewed as an opportunity mainly for educating children has grown into a ministry also aimed at reaching parents, McDonald said.

Arcadia First Baptist Church was an aging congregation five years ago, and now 50 to 60 children attend on Sundays. (Photo at right) Pastor Joshua McDonald said Arcadia First Baptist Church in Santa Fe has realized what ministry opportunities are available through the church’s Christian school and daycare.

“People know that we’re in the community because of the school. We’re on the main highway that passes through town, and everybody knows we’re the last school zone before you can just take off on the highway and leave town,” he said, noting Santa Fe is between Houston and Galveston. 

“I think visibility has mattered a lot for revitalization. Anytime there are parents mingling around outside, like for drop-off in the morning or pickup in the afternoon, I go out there and try to meet parents. Our staff is really good about that, too.”

One of the church’s best-attended events is a fall festival in partnership with the school and daycare. 

“The first year we had maybe 1,000 people show up. The fire station came out, the police came out, we had food trucks, the Coast Guard parked a boat out here,” McDonald said. “The second year it doubled, and this last year, we probably had 2,500 to 3,000 people come through.”

Church members individually take an interest in the students, too, the pastor said. 

“One of our church ladies wanted to beautify our garden area around the church where we have bushes and flowers. She said, ‘I’m going to teach the kids to do landscaping,’ so she made a butterfly garden with some of the younger kids. 

“So our kindergartners and first graders go out there and plant flowers and then butterflies land on them. It’s like a little science project for them,” McDonald said.

The growth of Texas is helping the church grow. An infusion of new life has been evident in recent years as families have found a place to belong.

The growth of Texas is helping Arcadia First Baptist grow. When McDonald arrived, it was a rural church, but Houston has expanded toward Santa Fe and developers are buying up land near the coast. Projections indicate 3,000 to 6,000 new homes will be built near the church in the next few years, the pastor said, and church members have been knocking on doors and having gospel conversations. 

One church member, though, realized the church didn’t have to wait until new residents moved in to share the gospel. Many of the workers constructing the homes are Hispanic, so the church member took along the pastor of Arcadia First Baptist’s Spanish language ministry, and as many as 23 of those who heard a gospel presentation placed their faith in Christ, McDonald said.

The Coast Guard set up a boat for people to view up close at a fall festival at Arcadia First Baptist Church in Santa Fe.

“In the last year we’ve had probably over 100 salvations,” he said. 

Other efforts Arcadia First Baptist has made toward revitalization include walking the campus to identify maintenance needs and transforming a seldom-used library of 3,000 books into a coffee shop where church members meet seven days a week for various reasons. 

Said McDonald: “There have been more gospel conversations in the coffee shop than there have been in that room in all the church’s history.”

5 minutes with Tony Sheffield

Tony Sheffield has been leading First Baptist Church in Maypearl for more than a quarter century. After coaching high school basketball for 12 years in Wichita, Kan., he surrendered to the ministry and came to Fort Worth to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993. During seminary, Tony served as a youth pastor in Fort Worth before accepting the position at FBC Maypearl in 1996. He also serves on the executive board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Tony and his wife, Eileen, raised their two children in Maypearl and have four grandchildren.

What is something you’ve been able to celebrate at FBC Maypearl recently?

Well, most recently, we had six adults and one teenager surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior on Easter Sunday. We have also just added a new worship/media pastor to our staff, and we are very excited about that. This past January, I celebrated 28 years as pastor of this great church. God has blessed me and my family with an incredible group of people here at FBC.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your ministry lately?

This is a tough question. I feel so blessed. I would say discipleship. I have learned that I cannot make people study. I can’t make them attend. I can’t make them serve.
I am encouraged though. We are experiencing a great hunger for God’s Word among our people. 

What is a lesson you’ve learned to this point in your ministry you know you’ll never forget?

Ministry is all about people. People want to be loved. There are many tasks involved in ministry, but none are more important than the people we minister to. When I came to FBC 28 years ago, I remember telling them I was a basketball coach and I did not know how to pastor, but I loved people and evangelism is my heart and that is where I was going to hang out. I challenged them to fill in around me and they have. I love people and want to see people come to know Jesus.

What is one thing you’d like to see God do specifically at FBC Maypearl this year?

We have never experienced 50 baptisms in a single year, and I want to see that happen. We are also very close to paying off our building and I’m praying that will
happen this year.

How can other churches of the SBTC be praying for you?

Please pray we can reach Maypearl with the gospel. Our community is growing rapidly, and we want to reach these people God is sending our way. 

No greater love

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:12-13

Words cannot adequately describe the gratefulness in my heart to Jesus for His sacrificial death on the cross for my sins. If you are a Christian, you know what I am saying. The Lord is worthy of all praise and worship, for He alone went to the cross and laid down His life so we can live in freedom from the power of sin. Because He died and arose from the dead, we too will rise to eternal life with Him—all because of what Jesus has done for us!

Biblical and secular history are replete with examples of heroic, sacrificial love where one individual pays the ultimate price and gives his or her life in order to save others. Every time I read of someone willingly laying down their lives, it inspires me and points me again to what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

John R. Fox was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1915 during World War I. He was 26 years old when he joined the military with the rank of second lieutenant. When World War II started, he was commissioned and joined the 92nd Infantry Division. He was ordered to stay behind in a small village in Tuscany, Italy. His job in 1944 was to keep an eye on the advancing German soldiers attempting to take over the village.  

“Praise Jesus for His sacrifice for you on the cross. He died for all so everyone who trusts in Him as Lord and Savior will live eternally in heaven.”

From his position on the second floor of a building, he saw how quickly the Germans were marching toward him. He sent the coordinates of his location to his fellow soldiers asking them to bomb the site. They asked if he was sure he wanted to do that because it meant certain death for him. He simply said, “Fire it.” Missiles pummeled the location and hundreds of Nazi soldiers and one American died in the attack. The one soldier was African American John R. Fox, a true American hero. Because of his sacrifice, the American soldiers were able to retreat and then return to overtake the village. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for paying the highest price, his very life.

As Jesus died to make us holy, so many soldiers in the military died to make us free. For the latter, I give my gratitude and honor, but for the former, regarding what Jesus did at Calvary, I give Him my worship and total allegiance. Will you take a moment and thank God again for the freedom you enjoy living here in America? That freedom came at a high price as hundreds of thousands of soldiers have sacrificed so you could enjoy all you have today.  

Praise Jesus for His sacrifice for you on the cross. He died for all so everyone who trusts in Him as Lord and Savior will live eternally in heaven. Praise the Lord!

A personal word to all our Southern Baptists of Texas Convention family: I am praying for you and honored to serve as your president. The Lord is working mightily in and through our convention of churches. May He bless every church and continue to use us to make disciples until Jesus comes again.

Sometimes the Lord is all you have, and He is enough

Editor’s note: The Lancaster family—Dane and his parents, Diran and Kellie—recently shared the story of how Jesus has worked miraculously through a tragic event that impacted each of their lives. They are members of First Baptist Church in Bowie. 

Dane Lancaster: My passion in life is calf roping. When I gave my heart to the Lord when I was 8 years old, I prayed He would give me ways to honor Him through what I loved. I really thought that someday I would be a world champion calf roper. I’d say as they interviewed me on TV, “First I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with this world championship.” But God had a different purpose in mind. 

When I was 11 years old [in May 2014] at a junior calf roping in Shawnee, Okla., I suffered a traumatic brain injury. A part of the barrier rope swung back and tripped my horse so that he flipped over and crushed me. I had multiple brain bleeds and a dissected carotid artery. I broke every bone in my face, fractured the base of my skull, and crushed the small bones of my right ear. Ninety percent of people who’ve had this injury don’t live.

I had to learn how to walk, talk, and eat all over again. My parents were told that speaking would be the hardest thing for me to overcome and that it was probable that I would never speak. The day they told my parents this news, my dad stayed awake praying over me all night long. The very next day in therapy, the therapist asked me, “Dane, what color is your horse?” I answered her saying, “Brown.” My speech came back like a flood after that.

(From left) Pierce, Diran, Kellie, and Dane Lancaster

Kellie Lancaster: The day Dane started speaking we were so overwhelmed because it was a miracle. We kept talking to him and talking to him. It was the evening and he was getting tired, and his dad said, “I know you’re tired, and I’m sorry I keep asking you all these questions. I’ve just missed your voice so much.” He said, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Dane said, just so matter of fact, “Yes sir, go saddle my horse.”

It was the hardest and most blessed time in our lives. It sounds like a paradox, but Natalie Grant sings a song called “Held.” That’s what we were, we were held. It’s a place where the road meets the rubber and you have an opportunity to either trust the Lord in what He says and who He is, or you don’t. For us, it was not an option to do anything else. Not that it was easy.

Diran Lancaster: You learn the importance of your daily walk with the Lord. You learn the importance of your church home and your church fellowship. I don’t know how people walk through something like that without those people, without those prayers, without those meals … you come home and your yard’s mowed. The Lord will often require your words from you. We sit in the safety of our church pew, and we sing songs praising God. We call him “the God who heals.” That’s easy when you’re sitting in a church pew, but sometimes the Lord has you in an ICU with your child requiring that you have faith. It’s all you have. It’s all you have.

Kellie: [The doctors] didn’t want him back on a horse. But for Dane, his motivation to work so hard to overcome unbelievable odds—he was paralyzed on one side—was to get back on a horse and rope. So we convinced the doctors that he could do equine therapy. After two weeks, they said, “Why are you even here? He can do all this.” We went home to our own arena, put him in a helmet, and he started riding. He returned to rodeo about 13 months after his injury. 

Diran: Last year he finished No. 3 in the Ultimate Calf Roping all-world standings.

Dane: It’s humbling to consider that we were told I would never speak, but God now uses my voice to tell others about a miracle-working God. The Lord has allowed me to return to calf roping. I rodeo competitively, train horses, and I teach other people how to rope and ride. I feel God’s calling to ministry, especially in evangelism. I’ll be starting at [Texas Baptist College] this fall. I know God has called me for a purpose, that He saved my life as an answer to my prayer that He would allow me to glorify His name as a calf roper.

Diran: You raise your children in the church knowing they’re going to face uncertain times. When Dane faced uncertain times, he clung to everything he had been taught in the church. He believed everything. Everything he said he believed in Vacation Bible School, when you think the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you have a bad day or something, he just clung to all of it. It was a real testament to him and his faith. Many times, as a dad, I’ve been in awe of Dane’s faith.

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