Here are some “bests” I’ve encountered in my time on earth.
Best tennis player I ever played with: Rod Laver. If you’re a tennis player, you know it’s virtually impossible to have a better answer than that one. Laver, an Australian who won tennis’ calendar year Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969, was widely regarded as the Greatest Of All Time before Pete Sampras & Roger Federer came along. In the winter of 1985, Laver was 47 and he and Ken Rosewall (another 60s-70s era Australian legend) played an exhibition match in Princeton, New Jersey, and as the tennis correspondent for The Trentonian, I covered the contest. I was there early in the day and as the court was set up, Laver asked, “would you like to hit a few?” I stifled a gleeful squeal and went out on the court, acting like I’d been there before, and helped the greatest player ever warm up. Afterwards he said, “you play nicely.” Well, so do you, Rod.
Best preacher I’ve ever heard. Andy Stanley. And it’s not really a close competition.
Best biography I’ve ever read. Edmund Morris’ Theodore Roosevelt trilogy. There is so much to Teddy Roosevelt that one volume can’t capture it.
Best class I ever took. EB 520, the Gospel Of Mark, Asbury Seminary. This was the first class I ever took at Asbury Seminary, and not only did it teach me about Mark’s Gospel, but taught a bible study method I still use almost every week. All my sermons and series that Abingdon Press has transformed into books had their origins in that Kentucky classroom.
Best surprise I ever got. When, out of nowhere and in the middle of a season of low expectations, an Abingdon editor emailed me, said that he’d seen Head Scratchers online, and would I mind discussing turning that series into a book?
Best novel I’ve ever read. I usually don’t think that newer is better and younger is smarter, but Nathan Hill’s The Nix is the best and most enjoyable novel I’ve ever read.
Best advice I’ve ever received. Back in 1998, my District Superintendent told a roomful of Methodist preachers: “When you want to get the last word in, don’t.”