I remember the first time I saw Oklahoma City on the horizon. My parents were driving my car, and I was driving the small U-Haul truck with my few possessions which would turn an apartment into a home. Oklahoma was going to be my home for awhile, or so I thought. All I really knew about Oklahoma was the famous Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma. Especially the line in the song that says, “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.”
It didn’t take long for me to understand the meaning of those lyrics. We have wind in Oklahoma.
It’s not quite like the wind in Casper, but we definitely have wind--a lot of it! Oklahoma City is on the dividing line between those “plains” and those “hills.” If you look to the west from I-35, you can almost see to Amarillo. If you look to the east, you see hills and trees. And the further east you go, the bigger the hills and trees become.
The beauty of northeast Tennessee shaped the first nine years of my life, although, at the time, I had no concept of just how special it was to live in that very beautiful part of the country. From there, it was all about southwest Ohio and central Indiana. Our family once drove from Tennessee to California. This was my first glimpse of the unique landscape of this great country called America.
This first drive to Oklahoma was special. I was headed west. It was a major detour for me as I had not planned to serve on a church staff at that point in my life. My degree was not in ministry; it was in music. This wonderful little church in Oklahoma took a risk on a young college graduate and asked me to help them with their music.
As I’ve said before, I now fully realize that God had a plan--a plan I could never have believed. I’m so thankful He did not reveal the extent of His plan. It would have seemed so outlandish that I doubt I would have believed God had any involvement at all.
But here I was, late on a Monday night in May of 1981, seeing the lights of a city I would soon call home. The rolling hills of southwest Ohio gave way to the very flat lands of the southwest. The Oklahoma sky made it seem as if I was seeing all the way to the west coast.
We were an hour outside of Tulsa headed west, and the lights of Oklahoma City were slowly appearing on the horizon. I knew I was getting close to this new homeland when I saw a line of what I assumed were TV towers on the east side of the city. As best I could tell, there were about seven of them, reaching high into the sky and marked by blinking red lights from top to bottom.
For some crazy reason, these towers became signs of a new start. Those towers welcomed me to Oklahoma City. To this day, the towers are a very visible part of the landscape of our city. Because Oklahoma City is not one filled with hills or tall trees, the towers can be seen most nights from anywhere in the city.
For me, they were the gateway to Oklahoma City. They told me I was close to the city that would become my home. To this day, when I return home to OKC from eastern parts of the state, I am still welcomed by those towers. Every time I see them on the horizon, I remember the first time I saw them.
They always remind me of the moment my home address changed.
Home for me had been Dayton, Ohio and, more specifically, we lived in Englewood, a northern suburb of the city. I went to Northmont schools. We lived on Volk drive from 1970 to 1974, then moved to the Valleybrook subdivision and bought a house on Rushwood circle. From there, it was Anderson, Indiana for four years. While Englewood was home, Anderson was where I was getting an education and, more importantly, preparing for the rest of my life.
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Eight years ago, Kim and I bought a house on the east side of Oklahoma City. I knew I had moved closer to the towers, although they were several miles south of our home, but I had no idea they would be visible from our new backyard. Every night, we close our evening by taking our dog out to let him scout out the backyard and follow the sensory trails left by countless variety of animals that have crossed through on their way to the woods.
Every night, I can see the towers: still there, still tall, red lights still flashing. A constant reminder how fast time flies.
It is hard to believe that it has been thirty-seven years since I first saw those towers, those red flashing lights, beacons of welcome high in the sky. The thought of living in Oklahoma City for only a few years never became a reality; it became my permanent address. It became the place where I would meet my wife. A few miles further west, one could see the cross on top of Mercy Hospital, where all three of our children were born, and where both of our grandsons were also born.
Whether it is the blinking lights of a communications tower or a cross on top of a hospital, I am reminded how the lights of a sky can remind us of how small we are, and how big God really is.
Last night, I was sitting on my patio in front of the fire, enjoying good company of friends and family, and on the horizon I saw those towers, the blinking red lights, and it was as if God was reminding me how far I’ve come since I first saw those lights: our wedding in 1983, five different apartments and houses, three children, a few dogs, and what is now a very large church impacting our city.
It was impossible to sit on the patio and see the red blinking lights without thanking God for how life has turned out for me. It is still hard to believe that thirty-seven years after first seeing those lights on the towers, I now see them every night. They’re a constant reminder that God has a plan: a plan that is always better than you could imagine, a plan that will take you out of your comfort zone, and a plan that will define your time on planet earth.
It was not my desire to be the pastor of a church. Had I known the first time I saw those lights that Oklahoma would include an invitation to be a pastor, I might have turned around. But God’s plan is always the best plan. I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am that God allowed me the privilege of the unfolding plan a few miles west of the towers with the blinking red lights.
I’m so thankful to have the privilege of being reminded every night that God always had a plan, and His plan will always take you places you’ve never been, and always reward you in ways you could never have imagined.