Happy Birthday Jay!

April 24, 2012

10 years ago, I was playing basketball at a church camp in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

I don’t remember much about the church camp, except for the fact that I was playing basketball against some high schoolers that thought they were really cool beating a 13 year old in basketball…at a church camp.

As fate would have it, I was not the only one who took notice at this mismatch, and the drummer from the band that was playing that week decided to enter the game.

Little did I know that he wasn’t just entering the game, but he was entering my life, and that I would be forever changed by this first encounter with Jay Smith.

“We got this man” he kept saying as we started a new game, running up and down the court.

“Just don’t be afraid, we just need a little intimidation.” (this was easier for the 6’4 guy to say to the 7th grader, but I believed him).

Needless to say we ended up winning that day, but we walked off the court with more than just a victory, we walked off the court with a friendship that has continued to last for the past 10 years.

4 years later, Jay started speaking at my home church and we got to hang out quite a bit. We would go grab lunch and dream about ministry and the “what if’s” of life. We attended retreats, camps, movies and all sorts of things together.

Jay invited me to play with him on his basketball team at the light house when I was a senior in high school, and my freshman year in college I played some flag football with him as well.

He was always including me, and it felt great to be apart of something, with someone who wanted you to be there.

My freshman year we decided to go on a road trip to visit some friends in Chicago and also celebrate Jay’s birthday.

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I told Jay I had a birthday surprise for him in Chicago…he thought we were going to a concert or something cool like that.

He should have known better.

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Medieval Times was great!

After an incredible trip to Chicago, we continued meeting over delicious food and had more insightful conversations about what the future may hold.

A couple years later Jay took a full time position at a church in the city, and I was hired on full time to do their middle school ministry.

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We were finally living in the reality of countless dreams. We were doing full time vocational ministry together and getting to try all sorts of cool things out. We planned and executed tons of programs, retreats, events, lock-ins, and parties…and I will forever cherish those moments we got to work in ministry together.

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This past fall, Jay got married! I got the opportunity to stand next to him, as a groomsmen, on his big day.

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(Ten years later, and he was still including me)

This past December, I resigned from the church that Jay and I got to be apart of together. It was one of the hardest things ever, not just because I was leaving the students, but because I felt like I was leaving one of my best friends.

But the beautiful thing about best friends, is they don’t let you leave them.

They chase after you and remind who you are.

They inspire you, challenge you, and keep reminding you that you are on the their team, that you are included.

Jay is one of my best friends, and though we are separated by 6 years of age, I have never once felt unwanted or unloved by him. He is one of the rare individuals that points people to Jesus, not some blue-eyed, plaid wearing, hipster Jesus…but the Jesus that conquers the grave for lost people, not only 2,000 years ago, but today as well. The Jesus that included everyone, especially those that no one else wanted to include. The Jesus who knew that love does stuff. The Jesus that steps on the basketball court when all hope is lost, and whispers

“We got this man”

Today is Jay’s 30th birthday, and I can’t wait to see the next chapters unfold in his life. I know they will be incredible, and I can’t wait to look back in ten years and tell you about another awesome decade of friendship and all that has happened.

Who knows, there may even be another Medieval Times experience in there somewhere.

Happy Birthday Jay!

And thanks again for stepping on the court 10 years ago, it changed everything.

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