One of my best friends on the planet is turning forty today. I’ve known Rick Long since he was a scrawny, gapped tooth twelve year old kid.
When I first met him I thought he was a cocky little seventh grader who needed taken down a notch or two (even though I was cocky little ninth grader who definitely needed taken down a notch or three!) But the more I got to know Rick the more I discovered that he was a teenager who loved Jesus more than anything and anyone.
Not only was he a servant of God, he was a wicked basketball player and all around athlete. He played sports with a fury and an intensity that you rarely see on any court or field. In one basketball game in high school he scored sixty points. That may be more points than I scored in all my games combined in high school and junior high multiplied by two!
Believe it or not I actually taught Rick to play basketball! He beat me one on one three hours later (does that surprise you?) But it didn’t really bother me. Rick was my friend and he brought the same intensity that he had on the basketball court to his relationship with Jesus. What is Rick doing now?
Rick became the pastor of Grace Church in Denver. He takes the same intensity he had on the court to plying the pulpit at church When I go to the church services and hear his sermons its hard not to think back and remember that scrawny little kid with serious basketball skills and a great big love for Jesus.
Grace actually used to be the church I was a pastor at for ten years. We had started the church together with him as the worship pastor and me as the preaching pastor. I resigned in 1999 after Columbine to pursue training and equipping teens through Dare 2 Share Ministries. In the seven years since I resigned the church has doubled in size with Rick as the preaching pastor. He is still schooling me one on one! Well anyway, I’m happy to be schooled by such a good, godly friend.
Happy birthday tricky Ricky. Thanks for being my friend. Just remember to be careful playing hoops after today. You could break a hip. Believe me, I know.