Thursday, May 11, 2006

[Thoughts] Pre-, Inter-, and Post-Conference Hobnobbing

Well, another Highlands Study Center conference is behind us. I received lots of positive feedback. The title of the conference was Generations: Giving Honor to Whom Honor is Due. The speakers were top-notch and delivered powerful lectures to our crowd of over 700 people (in less than 200 families, mind you).

One of the wonderful aspects of my job is that I get to interact with godly men and families who are impacting the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of lives. Of course, working for R. C. Sproul Jr. is a joy and a privilege. He is a wonderful father, a devoted husband, a caring friend and shining example of Christ's grace to men. His father, R. C. Sproul—whom I've listened to and read for years, I've had the privilege of meeting only once before, after a long trip to RCJR's house. We didn't converse much on that occasion, but this one was different. He is a gracious, godly man, who loves his son and his grandchildren with abandon. (He also loves the Steelers, but I'm willing to overlook that—indeed, it's a Sproul family trait!) Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum, is a man among men. How wonderful it was to have Beall and all the children with him this time! And Doug's father, Howard Phillips, is a powerhouse who understands the major challenges of our day!

Rowan and I arrived at the airport Thursday in time to see the younger Phillips family, along with Peter Bradrick, Doug's personal assistant, and Nathaniel Darnell, Vision Forum's new "video guy," exit the plane—they had half the seats on the plane. We loaded up the 15-passenger van—with Nathaniel and all of their luggage; everyone else rode in two other rental cars! ;)

After depositing them all at the hotel and making sure they found a place to have dinner, Rowan and I headed home for a quick dinner ourselves. Later that evening, I had the pleasure of a "being a fly on the wall" during a conversation between all four of our speakers on the topic of "Reformation and Revolution." It will be our next Basement Tape that will soon go out to all of our monthly supporters, who, like me, will also get to be a "fly on the wall."

In the conversation after the conversation, Doug asked RCJR to share some of his memories of great and godly men who had shared the family meal table with them when he was growing up. The ensuing conversation revealed a common thread between these two families in the way they had families meals. Both of the "second generation" families continue the tradition of a father teaching his children at the family meal table, with differences of style and content, of course. Stay tuned for a post in the near future regarding the family meal table...

Talking with RC Sr. and Howard was a treat. Both are gracious, humble men, and I count it a privilege to know them. I had a chance to talk with Howard during lunch on Saturday about the work my friend, Robert, and I had done founding the Constitution Party of Williamson County while we were still in Texas. When I asked what we could do locally to get a party going, he recruited me to run for office... almost. ;) Lunch took longer than expected, and Howard offered to skip his lunch and head back to the conference in order to keep us on track. As we continued to wait, I took him up on his offer, wrapping his meal up to go when it came. He ate it (cold) between the next two breaks with no complaint. I'm deeply grateful for his sacrifice for the sake of our conferees. (He also gave me some catering advice that I'll use next year!)

Another meal, after the conference, at the Sprouls' Jr. home was another delight. A delicious dinner cooked by Matt Clement (a local favorite chef!) and extraordinary hospitality by the Williams family of Kennesaw, GA, set the stage for engaging conversation and warm fellowship with the Phillips and Sproul families. While Rowan was playing outside with the Sproul and Phillips children, Amy and I had the pleasure of relaxed conversation at our table with Doug & Beall, Howard, Laurence & Angela, and Dakota & Samantha. The family meal table came up again here and the ensuing discussion helped Amy and me solidify some plans of our own to change the way we do things.

Later, we all roared at the banter and antics of RC Sr. and Howard as they "one-upped" one another naming Boston Braves players (the Braves left Boston after the 1952 season!). These two made quick friends and we all laughed at their stories from days gone by.

One of the highlights of the conference was the beautiful singing of Genevan Foundation, made up of the three oldest Serven children and our own Jonathon Landell (who also played piano and was our roving photographer). This talented quartet led us all in a Psalm Sing Saturday morning, with a beautiful rendition of Psalm 98.

We were touched by a request after worship on Sunday. Mrs. Serven approached me and said her children had discussed it and they wanted to get to know us better, but only had two small hotel rooms to offer as a place to fellowship. So, the sixteen of us spread out at one long table at Cracker Barrel and had a wonderful time! After that, we welcomed them into our somewhat messy (from a week of conference preparation) home. What a joy they were! Our only regret is that Marcus (the patriarch of the clan) was unable to be with them. However, a great treat, especially for Rowan, was when Rebecca, Nathan and Elizabeth let him join in as tenor on singing "Genevan Song," which was featured on the SAICFF 2005 Jubilee Award-winning documentary, "A Journey Home," directed/produced by Ken Carpenter at Franklin Springs Family Media. Rowan just beamed! Thanks, guys!

Speaking of the Carpenters... Amy had the pleasure of getting to know Ken and his lovely wife, Devon, at the Franklin Springs booth during the conference. During their conversation, they worked out to spend some time with us on Monday before they headed home. We met them at Java J's for coffees and danishes and pleasant conversation, while the children enjoyed the board games provided. Then it was back to our house for lunch. Again, a delightful visit was had by all!

This is a conference our family will never forget! And we can't wait to see all of our new friends again.

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Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Thoughts at 5/10/2006 01:41:00 PM
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