Yesterday I wrote about my trip to Searcy 30 years ago to begin my freshman year. But later, there was another trip to Searcy. This was the summer of 1984. I was still 27, and I was "trying out" for the preaching job at the College Church. As I heard the story later, the tape I'd sent to the search committee (now I almost can't believe I had the courage -- or audacity -- to send one) got put in a junk pile when they saw my age. But later, after several didn't seem to fit and after a couple sniffed at the salary, they had to return to the pile. So the call came, inviting me to come speak on a Sunday morning and evening. At the time, I didn't even own a suit. So my dad bought me one so I could try out in appropriate attire. (I know, I know . . . some of you at Highland are wanting to ask, "So whatever happened to those suits and ties you used to wear while preaching?" Hey, they were never "me"!) Shortly after that, Neale Pryor called me at home in Wilmington, NC, to say the elders would like to invite me to become their minister. It was a bittersweet evening, as we rejoiced over the new ministry but grieved over having to tell the people in Wilmington we were leaving. In the following couple months I turned 28, Megan was born, and we endured the 110 mph winds of Hurricane Diana (for seven hours). Then, in October 1984, Diane and I returned to Searcy with our two year old and our newborn. Now I was back with all of those people I mentioned yesterday whom I revered (along with many others). Only now, I wasn't their student; I was their preacher. What was I--what were we--thinking? But people were gracious. The seven years were, for the most part, wonderful. The four services every Sunday wore me out, but, hey, I was young! (Besides, Diane had the really hard job, as those of you who were around Megan in her healthy years know.) My life was blessed by older mentors, by deep friendships, and by lots of students to teach and train. The memories wash over me now: Jimmy Allen's and Neale Pryor's gospel meetings, laughing until I fell on the floor at Christmas parties at Dwight and Barby's house (I'm especially thinking of those moments today, because Barby's battle with cancer ended yesterday, and this wonderful woman went to be with the Lord), running every day with Leon, watching out the windows of my office as hundreds of students crossed Race Street, listening to J. D. Bales as he tried to talk some sense into me (he was always very gracious with me, though I frustrated him at times), sitting in on Ray Muncy's upper level history classes, going to Hunan's (the only Chinese cafeteria I've ever been to that included a taco bar in the buffet line) with the Coxes and Cochrans, playing ball on Monday mornings in the old gym with Matt before he started kindergarten, taking Megan to her special speech classes on campus, crying as we learned more about her challenges, holding each other as we wondered how we could survive without sleep, wrestling matches on the floor with Matt and Megan, "the house" (was it on Center or Market? Anyway, it's where a bunch of college guys lived whom I had mentored and who, in turn, took Matt into their inner circle . . . it was a house of laughs and love . . . but should probably have been condemned for health reasons.), calling James to ask exegetical questions, crawling into Tom's office in the Bible department when I was upset, speaking in chapel and at club devotionals and at the lily pool devotionals, "Peak of the Week" in the Administration Auditorium and then in the Benson Auditorium (it was a bigger crowd, but never felt quite the same as our first few years crammed into the admin), being asked by David Burks to speak at the first graduation ceremony of his presidency, playing pick-up basketball games with Avon Malone and Jimmy Allen, and having an asthma attack from laughing so hard at Craig's imitations of Harding and College Church people. I remember Diane and me dressing in leather and chains, dying our hair purple and pink, and going onto campus to trick-or-treat on Halloween. (I was 29, and she was 28! Students who figured out who it was nearly passed out. I think they were thinking that a preacher's wife should not be THAT HOT.) We left Searcy in the summer of 1991. It was the last year I spoke at Harding or the College Church (other than three funerals). Eleven years of my life--four as a student and seven as a minister--have been spent there. What a blessing! I wish I could go back in time and do some things more maturely, but unfortunately maturity usually only comes after failures, forgiveness, and the passing of a few years. We've returned to Searcy a few times since then. Maybe the most memorable was in May, 1992, when we went back for Diane's graduation. She attended from 1976-78, then took a class or two a semester from 1987-1991. After doing her student teaching in Abilene in the fall of 1991, she was ready for graduation.