It's been nearly 15 years since I drove the roads of Little Rock Arkansas. For those of you who don't know, I graduated from a small Christian School in the largest city in the state of Arkansas. This week, I was graciously hosted to come back and share what I've been up to, how our family has grown, and see some of the old "stomping grounds."
I don't know if you've ever had the chance to do those class reunions of sorts, but there's something nostalgic about going back to the places that make us, shape us, and form us so early in life.
When I landed in Little Rock last Tuesday evening, all that came flashing back in a heartbeat. Late night basketball games, runs with my friends down the main drag, and early relationships at church, school, and in the community that quite literally have shaped the DNA of who I am.
Waiting patiently at the baggage claim were my new friends The Caldwells. They were incredible!! When families host me in their city, it can be nerve racking. I mean really, who wants to show someone else how family functions? But the Caldwells were kind, honest, and delightful the entire time I was in their home.
We started Wednesday morning at Little Rock Christian Academy, a large private school in Little Rock which boasts of a Blue Ribbon School. For those of you who don't know the Blue Ribbon schools, these are the schools in the country who have attained the highest level of proficiency in academics, athletics, and facilty. They are the schools sending kids to high end colleges, preparing their way to lead the world in the next generation.
My old Anatomy teacher, Patrick Salman, is one of the leaders in the school's administration; and we spent a whole afternoon laughing and recalling the last several years. Walking down memory lane with him was incredible. Thanks Mr. Salman. The people God places in our young lives make a difference, and the time you took to invest in me...well I'm GRATEFUL.
Then I had a unique opportunity to talk to my old church, Fellowship Bible Church. This is one of those key churches in the country at the forefront of the Bible Church Movement, and pastors like Robert Lewis, Bill Parkinson, and Bill Wellons started something special WAY BACK IN THE 80's.
The campus now boasts of 5000 members, which is astounding for such a small town, and they're trying to help people along a spiritual journey in a very strange time in our world. Grace is the word of the year, and a few of the current pastors helped me see how they are investing in the lives of thousands there in Little Rock. I'm thankful to my new friend Tim who leads a large youth group trying to help students understand how to ask good questions about faith.
All in all, the experience was, well...interesting. The home I thought was SO big, actually is a Big-Small town. Everybody knows everybody, and it's easy to navigate the schools and the social circles. But more importantly, I reflect on the power of experiences when we're young.
The programs I was involved in shaped me.
The people who invested in me formed me.
The social pressure I was exposed to, molded me to think the way I think today.
And it reminded me how important it is that we take good care of how our kids are being raised today.
I'm drawn to be intentional about the programs, people, and places my kids have access to.
I'm hopeful my kids have a BIG view of the world.
I'm excited to see how my own children will grow and respond to the forces in their own lives shaping them even today.
And in the middle of all this reflection I found a unique perspective. Even though those experiences shaped my own DNA, I'm not shackled by them. I'm different than when I was in that town. It helped form me young, but it didn't dictate the hope I have for the future. And even in the midst of the memory lane, I found a freedom from the romanticism I once thought was my home.
The town has changed.
The people are all grown up.
The institutions I knew, are entirely different from two decades ago.
I suppose that's how it's supposed to be.
So to finish my three days in Little Rock:
To Little Rock, I say THANKS>
Thank you for the time I spent, the ideas I challenged, and the journey you set me on so long ago.
To the Caldwells, I say THANKS>
Thank you for taking me in your home and treating me as a friend, even though we've only known ABOUT one another.
To all my friends I met after being gone for 15 years, I say THANKS>
Thank you for all the wonderful experiences that set me on a journey in the this large world to understand who I am, where I'm going, and how to be a good friend to so many across the world.
And now it's time to be home, take a break from technology, and relax with the greatest Party of 7 I know.