Mexico. Revisited.

RMlogo Case Study_ Unholy Trinity - Man, Ministry, Marriage

My pastor friend in Mexico has done an excellent job in working through the problem of having me come for a series of meetings. After another round of talks with his pastor friends, they are okay currently with me speaking, though I won’t be speaking at one church because I’m divorced.

This issue is not something for Christians to respond in anger. Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 13, as he laid out how to respond to those who have unbiblical perspectives; he said knowledge leads to arrogance but love builds unity.

Though you or I may have knowledge about this matter, to beat our collective chests while looking down on those who have training in legalism would be sinful. We hold our perspectives with humility and love, not with condescending attitudes.

I sent this email, below, to my friend in response to the “dust-up” because he asked for my perspective on this issue. Part of my response to him addressed the idea of a sinner teaching behind a pulpit, which is a big deal for these pastors.

Different But Unified

Thank you for your thoughtful email. We are not struggling in any way. All is well with our souls. We will do whatever you want us to do. I do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone in Mexico, so if not coming will accomplish this right goal, then I do not wish to teach in your area.

But if everyone is “in faith” for our visit, then let’s do it. I would only ask that I be used in all possible ways because I’m not looking for a vacation. I go to meetings and conferences to work hard, not to relax, and I want you all to get the most from us. Our joy is to serve, not for you to serve us (Mark 10:45).

As for divorce? I believe Paul told Timothy that a pastor must have no more than one wife. I have only one. My first wife committed adultery and two years later dissolved the marriage. I did not divorce her. I sought reconciliation right up until the judge pronounced us divorced, and it’s a matter of court record that I was against it. I was clear on that matter.

She then married, divorced, and remarried a third time before I ever met and married Lucia. My first wife is no longer my wife, and I only have one. Though I was a pastor for five years, I am not now. I do not see myself as disqualified from being a pastor, though I do not believe the Lord has called me to pastor at this time. I have no desire for the noble office.

Missional Christians Teach

There is no teaching that I’m aware of that says I cannot teach Christians God’s Word. God redeemed me by the power of His Word. I’m also not aware of any forgiven sin that disqualifies a Christian from teaching God’s Word to other Christians. Doing so is at the heart of the great commission.

As for the pulpit? It’s not sacred; it’s a piece of wood (or metal) that some folks use as a means to hold their Bibles, notes, and water bottles. God dwells in people, not in inanimate objects. People are spiritual. Preaching is a spiritual event. The context is not relevant since any context is acceptable for sharing God’s Word, i.e., wood, rock, metal, or nothing at all.

I said the following on my family blog, which I write as an oral commentary on our family’s lives so our friends can see the “other side” of our lives, not just the ministry side of things.

Ironically, it would have been “better” if I had murdered my ex-wife rather than her divorcing me. (I say this in hyperbolic jest only, as I have no ill-will toward her.) But sometimes you can’t choose the sins that follow you through life. I just happen to have the “leprosy sin” of divorce.

I am aware that some folks have a weak conscience on this matter of divorce (1 Corinthians 8:1-13), which is why I would rather not come than to cause one of my brothers to stumble.

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13

Therefore, if [divorce] makes my brother stumble, I will never [teach to them], lest I make my brother stumble. – RLTV

I’m at your service. You tell me what you want me to do, and I will do it. But if I do come, I request that you fill up our time helping others.

Grace and mercy to you, my friend.


Divorce Is the Unpardonable Sin

I just got word from my friend in Mexico that they do not want me coming down there to speak in their churches. My friend does, but not his friends. They found out that I was divorced, which is the unpardonable sin when it comes to speaking in Christian pulpits.

This worldview is not the view of my friend; he’s a supporting member of our site and has much respect for me, as I do for him. He did not think about this minor (divorce) detail, which he knows now that is not a small talking point with these pastors. Though the fact that we don’t hide that I’ve gone through a divorce on our website, it did not occur to him that he should say that I was. And he shouldn’t have “majored on a minor,” as though that tidbit is a disqualifier.

But some folks, due to their religious preferences and prejudices, have another perspective. Mercifully, the Lord brought this out for those pastors, and they are asking us not to come to Mexico to share the gospel of Christ. As one pastor said, “I will not permit him to speak in my pulpit.” (I say “mercifully, the Lord brought this out” because it’s far better to find out now than after we arrived in Mexico.)

Murder, Yes – Divorce, No

Ironically, it would have been “better” if I had murdered my ex-wife rather than her divorcing me. (I say this in hyperbolic jest only, as I have no ill-will toward her.) But sometimes you can’t choose the sins that follow you through life. I just happen to have the “leprosy sin” of divorce.

My friend is sad. He has used much of our content in his preaching over the past few years and genuinely loves me and our resources. I’m sorry for him.

My children were listening to the phone call through the speaker, as was Lucia. They don’t understand, though they shrugged it off with mild sadness that they could not go with us for this trip. Ansa hugged me and said that she loves me anyway, and always will. Her love for me is more important than a handful of legalistic pastors.

It’s been a while since someone has disqualified me from Christian ministry. I don’t think about it any longer since my identity is in Christ, not in what the Lord has permitted into my life. I suppose it’s been thirty or so years since I walked away from fundamentalist’s teaching preferences. I do remember my friend (and pastor) in Commerce, GA telling me that I could speak in his pulpit anytime that I wanted to as long as I was not dating or remarried.

Oh well.

Pray For My Brothers

It is possible these Mexican pastors will change their minds, though it seems unlikely since they believe so firmly and the trip is less than a month.

As for me? I’m a sovereigntist; God is in control of all things, and I know that He works in mysterious ways. I don’t say that simplistically. I do believe it, and because of that, I’m not struggling with this turn of events. God is good. He opens and shuts doors.

From my viewpoint, it was God’s work in me as I went through a divorce that gave me (and this ministry) a significant platform to help hundreds of thousands of people. We just won’t be serving a group of folks in Mexico.


But then the Lord could do something different for them and us.

Stay tuned. Pray fervently. We are one in His body.

Dear Hayden, We Finally Made It To Klamath Falls

RMlogo Adam and Hayden Palm and Rick Thomas

I missed seeing you, though we did go to your grave. I blubbered; it’s what I do. I cried when I walked into your parent’s home. It was even weirder for Lucia and me to sleep in your bed. I felt like royalty when I was in your childhood home.

Adam took us to your grave. It’s still surreal. I know you’re not there but it was as close as I could get and I wanted to pay my respects, as they say.


The week in Klamath Falls was fantastic. Dan and Ann picked us up in Medford. It was an excellent two-hour introduction to the rest of our week. That was Monday. That night I went to Gordon’s home and had dinner with most of the elders and their wives. That helped a lot as it set my mind on what I needed to do for the week.

I don’t like pre-scripting a week of meetings before I arrive. I want to get to know the people, and then begin the process of asking God for the best words to say to serve them well. Of course, I had been prepping before arrival, but I did not want to assume I knew God’s mind before I got here. Meeting Dan, Ann, and the elders helped me in the process of getting to know the folks.


On Tuesday I went to my first ladies Bible study!! That was a ton of fun. I always wondered what you women did in those things. It was supposed to be from 1 to 3, but it went until 4:30. Janet said that she was on the edge of her seat. I think that meant she enjoyed it. It was all Q & A, which permitted us to cover a lot of things, the things they cared about and wanted some input.

Before the Bible study, I met with Steve for an hour or so to cover some things on his heart. My hope was to meet with as many folks as possible, whether individually, couples, or groups. I did all of those things.


All week long.

Tuesday night I met Adam. I must say that I might have a “man-crush” on him. I see why you said, “yes” to him. He’s a good one. We hit it off. In fact, after the conference on Saturday, he and I went to Starbucks for about 90 minutes, if not longer. I like him, but I need not tell you about that. You know.

I also met the rest of your family that night. Of course, I had already met Rob and Alisha (great hosts), and Chandler (Sis) came by that morning, so I got my hug in then. Then Alec that night. And, of course, Elise. She’s a sweetie.


Wednesday was amazing. Triad and Hosanna Christian Schools came together. I spoke to about 200 kids, parents, and teachers. That was so awesome. So much unity. Taylor asked why I came from South Carolina to talk to them. It caught me by surprise. I cried. I did tell her that I was a teenager, and I wished someone would have helped me through those years.

After that meeting, I met with the Student Council for Triad Christian School. That was another 45-minutes of serious (and funny) interaction. Those young men and women are fantastic too. These morning sessions went into the afternoon. And to top it off, several teens came to me asking personal questions. Just wow!!

Alisha took us to meet Barney and Rhea at their place. We ate at that lodge. This time was perfect as we needed to spend some time with them, and it was a double-bonus because we met Barney too. He’s understated and brilliant, all wrapped in one. Rhea is beautifully missional, and more.

That night, Lucia and I went to Sweetwater Church where I spoke at their Wednesday church meeting. I met Char. And I talked a long time with Anthony, another highlight of my week. The good Lord is doing some good things in his life, and I think you would want to know that. 2017 was a hard year for them, but he’s doing well as he’s making his plans while trusting in the Lord to order his steps.


Thursday, I was up at 6 AM for a Bible study with your daddy and Glen. It was good to meet Glen. That was nice. He sent me a note as we were leaving, thanking us for coming. He encouraged me.

Then there was a sound check at the BBC building at 11 AM. We got things squared away for the big conference on Friday and Saturday. I left there and met with Chris and Shawna for lunch. It was a good time getting to know them.

The Huertas showed up during the afternoon. It was a big surprise, which Brandi wanted to do to bless your mom. And it was a big surprise. We have it on video.

Thursday night I went to IBC to speak to the college and career folks. We had dinner and then I talked for 90 minutes or so. They were loud and interactive. They laughed a lot, which was great. You never know what you’re going to get with any group; they were terrific. I made a lot of good memories that night. Malea was there, rolling on the floor laughing. I like her. She was at the school meeting on Wednesday as well.


On Friday, we went with the Huertas to within one mile of Crater Lake. Big sigh right here. The one-mile path was snowed covered, which is an understatement. I was disappointed that we couldn’t see the lake, but God knows these things, and that is okay.

We did make it back in time to take a power nap before the conference that night.

You’ll be glad to know that 147 folks showed up from a half-dozen churches. It was way cool for Klamath Falls. They came from Colorado (Huertas), Portland, other towns in Oregon, and California. Amazing.

I thought it went well.


On Saturday we were back at it early, which took the entire day. I had lunch with Jim Turner, the author/speaker from Oregon. We connected. After the conference, I went out with your hubby, which was good for me.

I made it back home just in time for a three-hour meeting with Bob and Tanya at their home. It was a joy to serve them. I got home at 10 PM that night.


Sunday morning I went back to BBC and spoke to Gary’s Sunday school class. That time was unique and amazing. I wished it was longer. I’ll just leave it at that, but it was perfect.

From there, we high-tailed it over to IBC for their church meeting where Bob preached, and they baptized Claire as well as Paul’s son. It was a beautiful meeting from beginning to end.

We had to get a couple of souvenirs, so we were late to your parent’s home, but we were able to make it for an hour or so before we headed out with Steve and Wendy back to Medford for a night in a hotel before wheels up at 6 AM.


The wheels just touched down in Greenville, SC as I finish this post. Perfect timing.

I just wanted you to know what we did this past week.

It was all because of you! God is still using you, but you know that, right? Enjoy your “stored-up” treasures from last week; there will be more coming your way.

See you soon!!

Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Mexico

Update To Our Member Community – I’m in the middle of a significant public speaking stretch, for which I’m grateful to God for the privilege to serve Him and His body this way.

What happens during these events is that the ministry continues, which means prep for speaking, travel, and the work at these conferences do not replace my regular ministry duties; I add these responsibilities to my day-to-day work. (FYI: One of my “requirements” for speaking events is access to wifi so I can continue to work while away.)

To accomplish these events, I have to “pre-load” a week’s worth of work before I travel. E.g., This week I will do seven articles and podcasts between Sunday and Wednesday. Also, I must complete all our student’s assignments in our Mastermind Training Program. And then there is the usual ministry work, which is myriad, which includes a new book launch next Tuesday that I must complete in the next couple of days so it can go through the edits and populate globally by next week.

We’re also in the middle of a significant website launch, which we hope will be ready for you in a couple of months. There are numerous details involved with this launch.

Mercifully, many of you support this ministry, which has permitted us to hire Brandi Huerta, Chris O’Donnell, and Doug Graham this year. Julie Hansen has been working for us for a couple of years now, and Lisa Rice volunteers her time to the ministry. (We hope to bring her onboard by year’s end, which will coincide with the completion of her Mastermind Training.)

Without them, I would not be able to add these events to our workload. Without you, we would not have them. This work is a partnership in the gospel.

A Testimony – A lady in Alaska said that this past retreat was the best one that she had attended. She added that the previous retreats were fun and informational, but not as transformative. She said this retreat gave her a lot to think about and respond to personally and in her marriage.

It’s important to me that you know God is doing good work at these events. The assistant pastor in Alaska said the Sunday night meeting was one of the most well-attended meetings that they have had in recent memory.

Please pray for Lucia, the children, and me. We have Idaho, Oregon, and Mexico coming in succession. We knew it would be a challenge, but believed this was God’s will for us. We’re “in faith” for the process, but we’re also desirous of your prayers.

Thank you!

If you know of individuals, churches, or businesses that you believe would be interested in supporting us, share this link with them:

One Final Note – This website ranked our site as #10 of the top 30 best Christian websites for men.

The Lord is kind to us!!

Living With A Complex Man

I wrote the following to a friend on our ministry forum.

Yeah, Lucia is like [your husband]; she’s simple, but not in a Proverbs way. She is not wound around the axle like me. I’m way too complicated, though I’ve come to terms with it at this point, and I don’t fight being so screwed up.

There is a simplicity on the other side of complexity that does not remove the complexity, but you can live with yourself. Thus, I’m genuinely at peace with myself, though my complexity rears its ugly head from time to time.

Lucia, on the other hand, will never die; she will just fade away, wander off into the sunset, and kinda disappear. Those people live more simple lives. It’s like the end of Forest Gump with the feather wafting back and forth through the atmosphere until it finally moves toward the camera and fades to black.

She’ll just disappear one day, and that will be that.

Dear God, I love that woman. Keep her safe.

I long to be like Lucia, like that, but that is not who I am, and because of the horrible shaping influences in my life, I will always be a complex soul. I’ve realized, as Monk says, “It’s a blessing and a curse.”

The blessing part is that I can think deeply and intricately about soul problems. The curse part is that I can think deeply and intricately about soul problems.

Lucia lives simply. She will never be a formalize counselor. She will never teach anywhere in public. But she is the most amazing, competent person that I’ve ever met. I long to be like her, which is a thought I often have after I free fall into the black hole of my complexity.

After I take my thoughts captive, I’m back to resting in the simplicity that is on the other side of my complexity.

I hope that was not too complex. 😉

Here is how Lucia would say it: “People are different.”

Can you see how we’re different?

Of course, after Lucia sums it up by saying “people are different,” she has finished six more tasks.

I’m still thinking about this one thing.

Dear God, who shall deliver me from this body of death?

Lucia’s Third and Last Surgery. Done!

Wednesday, December 15, Lucia had her final surgery for her cancer. This procedure was for reconstruction. She is doing well today (Saturday). Her first shower and a little “walkabout” is the perfect medicine.

Add coffee.

Since Wednesday, she was loopy, as well as sleeping nearly all of that time. It is amazing at what sleep can do post-surgery.

It will take her another two weeks to get through the main part of the “surgery woods,” and a couple of months of stretching, light lifting, and somewhat regular duties to heal.

One, Two, Three

Her first surgery was the mastectomy, which happened in April. This past summer was the “expander” to stretch the skin for the future implant, which was Wednesday’s surgery. The past few months she met with the doc to inflate the expander incrementally.

This surgery was not as “bad” as the first one as far as the “fear factor,” not knowing the outcome, and the physical loss. This time around it was about “surgery weariness.” Three operations in nine months wear on you. Lucia did not expect that kind of anxiety, but it was real. Her hope is to put all this behind her, and we’re all on the same page with her.

This One

To reconstruct the breast, the doctor had to cut her in five places: inside each thigh, outside each thigh, and on the belly. Lucia was pleased about the doc’s perplexity because he could not find enough fat. I volunteered my fat because I’m a servant, but he said her body would reject my fat. (His words hurt my feelings, but I don’t want to make this all about me.)

The doctor had to insert fluid to break up the fat so he could suck it out. Lucia said the liposuction was the most painful part, post-surgery. She wondered, out loud, why any Hollywood star would subject themselves to that kind of pain if they did not have to do it.

The physician used the fat for the reconstruction. It’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea. A lot of marking of the body, many cuts, a whole bunch of reconstruction, tubes inserted for drainage, wraps around her thighs, and loopiness.

Let’s just say that it was rough on her. We hope there is healing, and cancer will not return.

Moving Forward

Lucia will recuperate for the next two months, and then we’ll start our travel schedule, speaking in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Mexico, and Canada. We both are looking forward to getting away, serving others, rather than spending our weeks in bed.

It has been an unusual year with four surgeries (my back surgery), but the perfect thing for us, in that we have experienced the Lord in refreshing ways.

His mercy is humbling. His grace is life-giving. And His presence is assuring.

We are encouraged. As Paul said, “the old person is wasting away, but the new person experiences renewal day by day.”

Paul was correct.

Let’s “Dance”

Tonight, we’ll trot her out to a Christmas party, but she’ll lay low; don’t worry. She wants to get out, and I don’t blame her. Low and slow is how we’ll go.

P.S. The reason we have not shared about this upcoming (now past) surgery is because it’s too much of a distraction.

Lucia is weary from this year, and the more flutter we can reduce, the better it is on her soul. We do have a handful of family and other friends who know.

Thank you for understanding.

Klondike Bill, Meet Lucia

Klondike Bill

One of the best dates Lucia ever had with me was the night I took her to wrestling, and she got to meet Klondike Bill. It was a night to remember, and one of the most compelling reasons she wanted to marry me.

(Okay, probably not so compelling but weirdly, it was romantical.)

It all began by the many trips I made with Lucia to my hometown in North Carolina. We had to drive through Charlotte, and each time we came upon the old Charlotte Coliseum, I always let Lucia know that the old auditorium is where my grandpa would take me to watch wrestling, and after the matches we would sit in his truck, eat Vanilla Wafers and drink Coke-Colas.

Not realizing I said this each time I passed the Coliseum, as we were passing it again, Lucia interrupted me, saying, “Hey, that’s where you used to watch wrestling with your grandpa and eat Vanilla Wafers and drink Coke-Colas afterward.” I asked her how she knew that.

We laughed.

Index Forward

During our dating season, I happened to see an advertisement on the television about a wrestling show coming to Anderson, SC, about 30 minutes away.

I bought two tickets.

Not paying attention to the date and day, I was a bit nervous after realizing it was on a Wednesday night. Her family were a “three times a week to church” family.

Ricky had some “plain’in” to do with Lucy’s parents when I picked her up on that Wednesday. (I did not tell them where she was going. She did not know either; it was a surprise.)

After navigating around the problem with her dad, I swept Lucia away for a night to remember. She was nervous slightly, not knowing me that well at that time, and I was taking her down the interstate, toward Georgia.

While sitting at a light in Anderson, Lucia saw a sign that said, “Anderson Civic Center,” and asked if I was taking her to a wrestling show. She just happened to see the same TV ad a few weeks eariler.



I said, “Yes.”


We went into the auditorium to find our seats. Before the wrestling, the announcer and cameraman came out to do some filming. He asked all of us to yell “boo” as loud as we could. The cameraman panned the audience.

Then the announcer asked us to yell “yay” as loud as we could. It was sad to know they were mixing our whooping and hollering into the footage that the folks in TV Land saw.

Why would they rig that? It took away from the realism.

But the wrestling was fantastic. At one point, I leaned over to Lucia to get her opinion. She said it was well choreographed. I was chagrined, and quickly appealed to her to keep that on the down-low because we might get into a fight if we let others know about the fakery.

And then it occurred to me that the folks around us probably would not know what the word choreographed means.

Problem averted.

We maintained kayfabe.

Lucia was alarmed at the little kids behind her, with painted faces, yelling, “Kill him. Take his head off.”

They looked to be about eight-years-old.

The Main Event

After the show, we hung around to savor the moment. I was doing the savoring. I decided to take Lucia down to the ring where two guys were tearing it down. As I was standing there, I noticed one of the old ring-hands was none other than Klondike Bill. I used to watch him wrestle in Charlotte.

I hollered at him, asking if I could take his picture. He said, “NO” in an abrupt, “you’re bothering me” kind of way. I appealed again, letting him know that this was my girlfriend’s first wrestling show.

He doubled-down, letting me know there would be no photo-ops tonight.

One final appeal.

I said, “Hey, Klondike, I used to watch you wrestle at the Park Center in Charlotte, NC.”

At that, he turned to the other ring-hand and said, “See. I told you I used to wrestle. This guy used to watch me wrestle.”

And with that, he jumped from the ring, yanked his hat from his head, gave Lucia a big Klondike bear (side) hug and I got my picture.

A glorious night.

There’s only one other thing that would make it better and seal completely the chance of me marrying this girl.

You guessed it.

After we got back to my car, I had some Vanilla Wafers and Coke-Colas hidden in the backseat. I pulled them out. We partook and talked about the night.


As we were leaving, one of us suggested that we go behind the auditorium where the crowd was standing, waiting on the wrestlers to come from their dressing room, and let those folks know it ain’t real.

Wisdom prevailed.

We went home instead.

The Morning After

The next day, Lucia went to work, and all her workmates could not wait to hear about this mysterious date night that her boyfriend planned for her.

With joy, Lucia explained it all.

They didn’t get it, as they stammered and struggled to enter into Lucia’s joy.

How sad is that?

It was magical. It was romantical. It was a date-night for the ages.

I think those ladies were jealous.