I first met James Newman at church on a Wednesday evening. At first, I thought some biker dude got lost or confused and wandered into the building and was just too polite to walk back out. After listening to him teach and preach, I decided some biker dude got lost and came to Jesus and answered the call to the ministry.
It’s not too hard to figure out my impression on the point. With his shaved head, thick shoulders and strong arms, it’s quite easy to imagine James in boots and jeans and a leather vest cruising through the Flint Hills on some harsh-piped Harley. I recently had the opportunity to move from initial impression.
I met James for lunch at El Maguey. The food was good, the atmosphere was pleasant and the conversation was a foretaste of glory divine.
It was the first extended conversation we’ve had but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Only a few minutes in, I felt like I was talking to a friend I’d known for years. We laughed together and shared stories of our own spiritual journeys. We talked about Jesus, fishing and hunting and family. We talked religion and relations, small towns and nations. After he paid the bill and I left a tip, we said goodbye in the parking lot.
He gave me a hug and said quietly, “I love you.” Without another thought I replied, “I love you, too.” Normally, I wouldn’t say something like that on a first date and I sure wouldn’t believe it from someone else in such a short association.
But here’s the thing about Pastor James: you know it’s true when he says that. You feel it in his voice, you see it in his eyes and you just sense it within your heart and spirit. You don’t have to be around him very long to know that this is a vessel open to the Lord and to the leading of the Spirit, a man open to the lost and lonely of the world.
When I grow up, I want to be like Pastor James.