I have returned, tired but inspired, from "Harvest University," an intense three-day conference in Elgin, Ill. It was hosted by Harvest Bible Chapel, the exploding string of Bible-based churches worldwide that has a branch in Decatur, Ill., which I am proud to attend.
At a Harvest church, everybody works in service to God's glory; I am a member of the Hospitality Team at Decatur, and in between the University's exhilarating worship services I took workshop courses designed to help me do what I do better.
The church was founded in 1988 by Pastor James MacDonald, a simply amazing man of God. Funny yet fearless, passionate and unapologetic, he is one of the finest Biblical scholars and ministers it has been my privilege to hear.
I'm always thrilled to see him preach in person, so I was anxious to get from the hotel where 17 of my fellow Decatur parishioners and I were staying over to Harvest Elgin for the final day of classes and Pastor MacDonald's closing sermon. Because we all had checked out of the hotel and were going our separate ways at the end of the conference, I was driving by myself.
About a quarter-mile from the church, I found myself stuck alongside a bald, burly biker in a black leather vest who was slowly putt-putt-putting his Harley in the right-hand turn lane leading to the entrance. "This guy can't possibly be going to Harvest University!" I grumbled. "What the heck is he doing in my way?"
I had the option of either slowing waaaay down and slipping in behind the motorcycle or hitting the accelerator, gunning it a bit and zipping in front of him.
Did I mention that I drive a 2011 Camaro?
There was no option. I stepped on the gas, made a sharp right and pulled in front of the biker. "That's more like it!" I grinned.
I looked in my rear-view mirror to make sure I hadn't cut him off too severely. "Man, does that face looks familiar," thought I.
Then I took a closer look. The joy-riding biker was none other than...Pastor James MacDonald.
Scanning his eyes in the mirror for any trace of anger, I felt relieved that (a) he seemed OK and (b) thankfully no one from my church witnessed my moment of sheer idiocy.
I was half right. The moment I opened my door after parking in the Harvest lot, my pastor in Decatur, Tony Caffey, was standing next to my car. "You know you almost ran over the founder of our church?" he asked.
I heard the raucous laughter of my fellow Harvest Decaturites in the background.
Well, perhaps an apology might be in order.
As I entered the lobby I spotted MacDonald – he's a hard man to miss, especially in a black leather vest – surrounded by members of my church. I walked over and shook his hand.
A grinning Pastor James MacDonald with Harvest Decatur attendee Lori Nelson, apparently uninjured.
"I'm really sorry about cutting you off," I said.
"That was you? In the Camaro?"
I nodded sheepishly.
"Man, I couldn't help but check out that car! That is one sweet ride!"
Saved by the sports car.
As we later learned, MacDonald was dressed as he was because the church was giving a new Harley to assistant senior pastor Rick Donald for his decades of faithful service to the church, and MacDonald actually rode the bike into the sanctuary to present it to him. I don't think that was the bike he was riding into the parking lot, but I can't be sure. Had I cut my steering wheel a split-second sooner, I might have ruined a thoughtful, expensive gift and derailed a marvelous closing sermon from MacDonald. Harvest Holy Enemy No. 1.
The takeaway for me that day? God's grace even extends to impulsive drivers. And you can't judge a biker by his "vest"-ments.