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A Conversation about Priorities I’ll Never Forget

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I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.

A Conversation about Priorities I'll Never Forget

(Photo: By Whipwhopwoo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.

I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”

“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.

His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.

Meet Duke

“Mr. Ambers?” I asked. (Not his real name.)

He said nothing at first. Then finally, “Call me Duke,” he said.


As I fumbled to begin a conversation that would take us from complete strangers to the reason for my visit, he paused and then dumped the truck.

“I singlehandedly built Dallas-Fort Worth Airport,” he began.

His passion for this project left an obvious gap in his relationship with his family. I had already experienced how his wife felt about him. His children too, he told me, wanted nothing to do with him.

Between sentences, Duke reached down and grabbed a tall, clear bottle, from which he extracted a few stiff jolts. After each slug he would glance toward the door to see if anyone had seen him.

“I missed nine Christmases,” he told me, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.


DFW Airport

(Photo: DFW Airport. By FRED, Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Inevitable Fallout of Priorities

I shared with Duke the fact that he was living with the inevitable fallout that occurs when we put our passions ahead of God’s priorities. Life always, always boils down to its essentials, and the most important part of life is found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. His family and his work should flow from that priority.

I explained the gospel in the simplest terms I could. I told him suicide was not the solution. God was.

He looked at me as if I’d just spoken a foreign language.

No connection at all.

The look on his face reminded me of the reaction another man had after Jesus had spoken to him about the need to follow Him:

At these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. —Mark 10:22

Reflecting on Our Priorities

After an hour, I retraced my steps to the street. As I drove away from the palatial homes, my heart broke for Duke and his family. His words echoed in my head:

I missed nine Christmases . . .

It really isn’t about missing Christmas—or any holiday. It’s about the daily priorities of walking with God and allowing HIM to determine our priorities.

Every day.

Tell me what you think: What helps you keep your priorities in line each day? To leave a comment, just click here.

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