“The Sons of Thunder”
Sunday October 21, 2012 . . . Stamford, Connecticut . . . We were all together last at the Flying-W Ranch in Colorado Springs, summer of ‘98. Fred, John and Steve, sons of a Southern Baptist preacher, are Florida born and bred. Their dad was a WW II vet, a U.S. Marine who fought within yards of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. And he was a boxer. I leave you to ponder the origin of “The Sons of Thunder.” Fred and Janet live in Pompano Beach. Fred oversees a three-county region with a burgeoning outreach to youth. First Priority is on 175 high school campuses and aims to establish a presence on 300 within the next 5 years. Steve and Julie make their home in Winter Haven where he serves as minister of music for a large SBC church. John and Deb reside in Stamford. Stamford Baptist Church calls John, “Pastor.”
As a Denver Seminary student, John was the first to do mentored ministry with me. He and Deb joined wholeheartedly with Sue and me in our southwest Denver ministry during the early ‘80’s. We became fast friends and have remained so through all these years. Not long after, Fred and Steve followed their brother’s western lead. Musically gifted, the “Sons of Thunder,” each in turn served as worship leaders with us. These were the first with whom I associated the expression, “heart and art” and thankfully, not the last.
In those days we pursued Rocky Mountain highs, off road four-wheeling in search of ghost towns, cross-country skiing at 9,000 foot elevations and happening upon unplanned adventures. Time does not permit me to tell you of the elbow-spider-webbed character we came upon hunched over the engine of his broken down car with his elderly, stroke-victim dad blanketed in the back seat – not far from sundown and a cold night. Or about the tipping point my steel steed nearly reached, rocking onto two wheels (driver’s side) in a wilderness of sharp-edged boulders. Then there was that no turning back moment, when my gallant brothers clambered out of my Ford Bronco II, volunteering to coach/coax me across a bridge. A not-so-short bridge with planking absent but girders providentially spaced, matching the width of my wheels! To this day I wonder at their lack of confidence in the driver’s skill. We’ve also shared life’s lows, namely, the untimely loss of a brother. Though they’d never met Stephen, and I’d never known Cliff, the fourth “Son of Thunder,” there is an unspoken understanding.
One sunny June afternoon about 15 months ago John called. “David, tell me about pastoring in New England.” “Well, John, we have a thing here called winter” (think Florida, think Nashville). After 15 years of editorial work with the Southern Baptists in the Nashville headquarters, John was yielding to a Spirit-driven yearning to return to the pastorate. And so, despite my warning, John and Deb landed last fall in Stamford.
Worship this reunion Sunday was a foretaste of glory divine. The brothers sang and led the congregation in joyful praise. Someone’s cheeks were tear-streaked at hearing the “Sons” in song again. John preached on the calling of the saints to put off the old self and put on the new self (Ephesians 4) – the never ending challenge for us all this side of glory. Following worship, we gathered around John and Deb’s dinner table in the parsonage, reminiscing and then reporting on the whereabouts of our now combined 10 children. All are grown, some married, the youngest one finishing high school. No grandchildren – yet. No hurry! Maybe next reunion.
“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Isaiah 35:10 & 51:11 ESV