I was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1982. At the time, I filled the pulpit of Parkwood Hills Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. In the years that followed, I enjoyed three decades of uninterrupted Sundays in the pulpits of Baptist churches. On Sunday, February 12, I preached my last sermon as a parish pastor…at least for a while… This past Sunday, February 19, was my first Sunday out of the pulpit in three decades. What to do? I flew to Las Vegas, Nevada. At 8:00 o’clock on Sunday morning (when I’m usually knotting my tie and printing my sermon) I walked into the Poker Room of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino and signed up for the casino’s No Limit Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament. An hour later, I was seated at the table and the first cards were dealt…

For the next three hours, I traded pew sitters for poker players. Instead of leading the blind, I was throwing blinds into the pot. As the hands were dealt, I won a few and lost a few – not much different than church work. At times I felt I was too easy to read. That was true in the pastorate, however. I never held my cards very close during my pastoral ministry. People typically knew my hand when it came to issues like homosexuality, interfaith issues, church/state relations, universalism and the like. I folded several times in the early years of ministry (not certain my hand would hold up against what others held) but in later years, I played the cards I was dealt and was confident of their value….

The tournament ended a little after noon…and the rumor is true. I won! Yep. I didn’t place second or third or thirtieth. I won! And just in case you were wondering…I entered the evening tournament that began at 11:00 pm. I was interested in determining if my earlier success had been a fluke or a result of beginner’s luck. I placed second in the evening tournament…

Maybe I heard God wrong thirty years ago…maybe I missed my calling?!? Or maybe…God was simply allowing me to relax and enjoy what might otherwise have been a lonesome and awkward day. I like it when God goes all in…

Photo Credit

Comment