It happened many years ago, more years than I like to admit. It was the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of my graduation from high school. The old leaders of the class were still leading. They’d tracked me down. Now, they’d invited me to come and be a part of the celebration, the reunion, the remembering.
I recall those typical feelings everyone gets about going to such events: Did I still look in shape? Would that old flame be there; if so, was she married? If she was married was her husband successful? And did she ever wonder how things would have worked out if we’d stuck together? There was only one way out. The cost was a bit much, but it included a lot, all of which they read out to me: supper, hotel discount, band, dancing, open bar, all those things.
At the time I was a single parent. There was no regular girl friend. Who knew what the evening might bring? “Yeah,” I told the coordinator, “I’d love to come.” (Maybe Linda Smith would be there.)
Then the kicker came. “We heard you are a preacher.”
“Listen, since you’re a pastor, would you be willing to open the activities with prayer.”
“Sure,” I automatically said. After all, I’d prayed over a lot of things in my time: football games (I really pissed some people off the night I prayed for the home team to win.), the Rotary Club, a horse; why, I was the one who prayed at the ceremony for the erection of the flagpole at the grave of General Longstreet. But this was the first time I’d been asked to pray over what I was sure would become a drunken bash.
I worked hard on that prayer. I stood before the assembled group, mike in hand and prayed. I kept it. Here's how it went:
Dear God, we come to you tonight with grateful hearts. We are grateful for the crow’s feet at the corner of our eyes; they show we have laughed a lot. We are thankful for the gray that sprinkles our hair; it’s a promise that we are obtaining wisdom. For the aches and pains of our age we give thanks to you for we are reminded of our mortality. Thank you, Lord, for this time together. Let this night remind us of our youth that we might dream our dreams again and look forward to the future with eager anticipation. Be with us in our frivolity tonight; laugh with us; remember with us; and, dance with us. Forgive those couple of sins that are about to be committed. And, Lord, I beseech you, please, this night, give me the courage to finally ask Ellen Snyder to dance with me. Amen.
Later that evening, after the feast, as I sat talking to an old buddy, there was a tap on my shoulder. I looked around and there stood Ellen Snyder. She was in a blue dress with just enough clevage to challenge my ability to look her in the eye. But I managed. Her blue eyes cut deep into my being as they had when I used to secretly admire her during study hall. She was so beautiful then. She was so unapproachable, then, a goddess. And I, well, I was me.
“Well?” she said.
It took me a moment to gather my wits and to fight off that old adolescent trembling that came over me whenever Ellen was around. But I was a man now. I cleared my throat, forcing the lump downward. “Would you honor me with a dance?” I asked in my most Southern gentlemanly way.
“I would be delighted,” she replied with that smile that dazzled legions.
She took my hand. She led me to the dance floor. I don’t remember the song that was playing. It was a fast dance, I know. And it was one of the oldies from those youthful years, I'm sure. I prayed I’d not trip on my own feet. We finished that dance, and, as I made ready to lead her back to her table, she said, “Let’s dance some more.”
Another song from the days of our youth played. As we danced this dance we talked for a while. She told me of her husband, a doctor, of her children, of some memorable events in her life. I briefly shared part of my story. The song ended. We separated, but she didn’t let go of my hand.
“Oh, hell, one more,” she suggested.
“One more,” I echoed, feeling a bit of those old feelings I used to get when she sat beside me in study hall. One more? A thousand more would be fine with me.
This song was a slow one also. And this time we danced close together. I was conscious of her body as I held her as close as good manners would permit. I felt her warmth. Her head was on my shoulder. And, as the last verse of the song was playing, she reached up and gently nibbled on my ear lobe. My heart stopped beating on its way to my throat.
“You should have asked me to dance twenty-five years ago,” she whispered.
The music ended. I walked her back to her table as a tidal wave of varying emotions washed over me. She introduced me to her husband. I thought how lucky he was.
As the evening wore down, I kept glancing over at her. Mostly, she was busy laughing and talking with those at her table, the group I was never part of. But when the call for the last dance was made, she looked over at me. Her index finger crooked back and forth as she summoned me. And I, like the middle-aged teen I had become, stumbled quickly across the floor. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to say to her husband, “May I?”
When he nodded graciously, Ellen and I made our way to the dance floor again. We danced without talking. We held each other close. To this day I can smell her perfume and feel the gentle brush of her hair. The music stopped. She looked up, and kissed me passionately on the lips, and said, “Good bye, preacher.”
“Good bye,” I said.
I’ve never seen Ellen since that night of the reunion, years ago. But sometimes, when I’m back home, I drive down the street where she lived and cannot help but wonder of what might-have-been.
It’s a trait of the human condition, is it not? So often we fail to see the wonderful possibilities that are sitting right beside us.
Don’t let this day go by without feasting on everything you encounter.
A man was traveling on business through a small town. He’d made his sales calls on local industries. It was a good day; he’d written a record amount of business. Life was good. And, to top it all, he’d finished by mid-afternoon. He’d have to stay in town overnight as the contract would not be completed for signing until the next morning.
Stopping at the Dairy Queen, he ordered a slaw dog with a coke and onion rings. With time to kill he indulged in a pineapple sundae before going to his motel room. Once there he pulled off his business suit and settled on the bed. The television was clicked on. He flipped through the channels looking for an interesting program. Soap operas didn’t appeal to him. Even if John had forsaken Wendy, his fiancée, for a torrid affair with Eloise, the consultant who came by the office on occasion, he was actually in love with Francine who was mentally ill because of a rejection from her suitor who had originally been engaged to Wendy but was now the caretaker for Eloise’s invalid father, he couldn’t generate interest in the show.
He searched for something else. The choice came down to the soaps, the repeated news on each of the twenty-four hour news stations, replays of replays of the sports stations, or trials of criminals on Court TV. It really was not a choice.
He jumped off the bed, opened his suitcase and withdrew some blue jeans and a polo shirt. Donning the more comfortable attire, he left the room I search of some entertainment. Walking down the road he heard some cheering in the distance. Making his way toward the noise he came upon a neatly kept Little League Baseball field. As he approached he found himself standing behind the fence in left field.
He watched the game for a few minutes. The pitcher walked two batters. The third player to step to the place tagged the ball for a double and drove in both runs. When the coach left the dugout to call time in order to talk to the pitcher, the man called out to the left fielder, “Hey, son, what’s the score?”
The boy turned and responded, “Eighteen to nothing, and we’re behind.”
“Eighteen to nothing,” the man said, “that must be pretty discouraging.”
“Ah, no sir,” the young athlete replied, “we haven’t got a bat yet!”
It’s a new day. It’s a new game. And you’re up at bat.
A United Methodist, an Episcopal and United Church of Christ pastor were sitting around a table at an outdoor restaurant on Peachtree Street in Atlanta during a recent ecumenical conference. They were sharing stories of their lives.
“Oh, come on,” said the UCC pastor at one point to the Episcopal priest, “surely you haven’t strictly held to that high church liturgy all your life?”
The Episcopal priest hung her head and said, “Well, if you must know, there were three consecutive Sunday mornings when I was a senior in college when I attended a Pentecostal service. And, if the truth be told, I did ‘get the Spirit’ and started dancing in the aisle.”
“That just doesn’t see like you,” the UCC pastor commented.
“I know, but since then I’ve repented and asked God for forgiveness,” said the priest. “Now, I’ve confessed that to you, but I’m not the only one. I heard a rumor that one time you actually spoke unkindly of a minority person.”
“Okay,” said the UCC pastor. “I admit it. I want you to know that it was that person’s personality that led me to say he shouldn’t be in the church. But he was of an oppressed group and that did make it easier to condemn him. But, just like you, I confessed my sin and I feel God has forgiven me.”
“You’ve been awfully quiet,” the priest said to the United Methodist. “What’s your biggest sin? Have you been drinking too much?”
“No, I haven’t,” said the United Methodist.
“Okay, you’ve been going to night clubs and dancing until the rooster crows?” the UCC pastor asked.
“No, not that either.”
“You have no sins to confess?” they asked.
“I sure do,” the United Methodist said.
There was quiet for a moment.
“Okay, what’s the biggest sin you’ve confessed to God?”
“Well, if you must know,” the United Methodist said, “every day of my life I have to ask God to forgive me for being the biggest gossiper ever ordained.”
The day was hot, sultry hot, South Georgia hot. It was humid, dripping wet sweat humid. The air was heavy, tiring-the-lungs heavy. Yet here I was, outside, standing in the shade of an oak tree on a farm located off Tricia Yearwood Parkway in Monticello, Georgia, perspiring freely from the effort on just being there. But I would not leave that spot for all the ice-filled pitchers of lemonade in Jasper County.
I wouldn’t leave because she was there. I should have felt some guilt. I should have been in the kitchen of my cousin’s house helping my wife clear the dishes from the feast on which we’d just partaken. I wasn’t. I was here. I was captivated. I was unable to move. I could not take my eyes off the beauty that was before me.
She was blonde, naturally blonde. The silky strands of hair were cut just at her shoulder. Bangs accented her forehead. The eyes were blue, deep, deep blue -- eyes that seemingly drew me close and held me tight. Her complexion was that of a beauty-bar soap TV model. She had that fresh look. She was captivating.
“Would you like to go for a ride?” she asked with a smile that would melt any man.
I probably shouldn’t do this, I thought. I looked around. No one was interested in what I was doing. We didn’t have to be gone long. Why not? How often, at my age, does an opportunity as this come along?
Opening the passenger door to the pickup truck, I took her arm in a gentlemanly manner and assisted her on the seat. Walking around I slid behind the steering wheel, cranked the engine, looked over into those blue eyes and said, “Where to?”
“Let’s just see the farm, okay?”
“Sure.” I hopped out and opened the gate to the pasture. Back in the cab I nudged the truck into and out across the pasture. She seemed lost in thought. Her arm resting on the open window provided a pillow for her chin. Blonde, silky hair was blown about giving her an even more carefree and free-spirit appearance. I resisted the impulse to reach across and run my fingers through the dancing strands.
How long we rode that way is hard to say. Time seemed to dance away and disappear across the horizon. Somewhere on the backside of the farm she looked over at me and smiled. “This is nice,” she commented matter-of-factly. “Could I drive?”
“No problem,” I said. She seemingly floated into the driver’s seat. How petite she was, as she sat forward to reach the pedals.
My head was snapped backward as her foot stomped the gas. The truck literally leaped up and across the pasture. Cows stopped chewing and stared. She let up on the gas, looked at me, smiled, and said, “Sorry. I guess that was too fast.”
“It was okay,” I replied, prisoner to the smile.
Half an hour later and a dozen wheelies through the grass and a few airborne adventures over inclines in the terrain, we were back at the house. That's when my wife confronted me. “Was that Ansley driving that truck!? Are you out of your mind!? She’s eight years old!”
Maybe I was, but, then again, one has to factor in that blonde hair, those blue eyes, and that knowing smile that was now proclaiming me the coolest grandfather in Georgia.
The scene is the Vatican in Rome. A cardinal rushes in to see the Pope. “Your Holiness,” he says, “I have some good news and some bad news.”
The Pope replied, “Well, give me the good news first.”
“We’ve just received word Christ has returned to earth.”
“That’s wonderful,” the Pope responded. “But what’s the bad news?”
“The cardinal answered dejectedly, “The call came from Salt Lake City.”
That joke comes gift wrapped in profound theology. What if Christ should return today? Would it be good news for the Baptists? For Methodists? For Catholics? Lutherans? Good news for the poor or rich? For the blue collar worker or the intellectual elite?
In Amos day the people of Israel were piously looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. But Amos warned them the Christ might be bad news for some. When Christ comes there will be surprises.
A man died and approached the gates of heaven to seek admission. The Gatekeeper asked what he’d done to deserve admission. “Well, I went to church at Christmas and Easter.”
The Gatekeeper laughed.
“I gave money to religious causes.”
The Gatekeeper asked him what money was.
“I took care of my family.”
The Gatekeeper informed him plenty of sinners in hell did the same thing.
The poor man gave up. He realized he’d done little for God or others during his time on earth. He was about to turn away when the gatekeeper cried out, “Wait! I know you! You’re the man who used to feed the sparrows in that little city park.”
The man acknowledged it was he.
“Come on in!” said the gatekeeper. “The Lord of the Sparrows said when you arrived to bring you straight to him so he could thank you.”
The parson sat in his recliner chair in the treatment are of the Infusion Center at Emory University Hospital. He was about to receive his every-other-week infusion of the drug that, while not curing his cancer, was improving the quality of his life.
Janet, the nurse, was inserting the IV needle into his vein. They talked. “Janet,” the parson said, “do you remember the last time I was here when the man in the chair next to me was asking you about how it felt like he was stepping on rocks when he walked?”
“I do,” said Janet. “Why do you ask. Are you having that feeling?"
“Well, I wouldn’t call it stepping on rocks,” the parson replied. “It’s more like I’m walking across a cobblestone street. I don’t have it often but I do experience it sometimes.”
“It’s called peripheral neuropathy,” said Janet. “Tell your doctor about it. She’ll give you a prescription for it.”
Janet gathered up the debris of wrappings from needles and gauze pads she’d made on the tray beside the parson’s chair. As she rose, she turned to the parson and said, “How different does it feel to walk on cobblestones and not egg shells?”
“Pardon me,” the parson replied.
“Well,” said Janet, “I just assumed that because you’re a pastor you’ve been walking on eggshells your whole career.”
The parson was spending the night at his son’s house. He was heading to the hospital early-thirty the next morning for some tests, measurements, poking, sticking, and all those other things he’d agreed to let the researchers do to prevent others in the future from being where he was.
As was his custom, he made himself comfortable on a little love seat, with a pillow behind his back, a glass of wine on the side table (His son had said, “Dad, have you ever thought you might drink to much?” To that the parson replied, “What? Do you think it will kill me?”), his son’s dog was cuddled up on the love seat with his head in the parson’s lap. And behind the parson, sitting on his usual stool, looking over the parson’s shoulder at the laptop screen was the parson’s number 4 grandson, Al, age 10.
As was the custom, when the parson came to spend the night before the hospital adventures, he and Al were binge watching old episodes of The Amazing Race. Al has a habit of identifying which contestants he doesn’t like in the first episode of each season. During the particular season they were watching, Al had identified a male contestant as his villain. He based it on the man’s disrespect for his wife, the way he yelled at her, the manner in which he put her down and blamed her whenever they did not come in first on that leg of the race.
In this particular episode, the villain in Al’s mind and his wife came to one of the tasks needed to be performed. They opened the envelope. It said that only one of them could complete the task and that person should be one that was good at details. The man immediately said, “I’ll do this one. I don’t think you could handle it.”
He opened the next page of the instructions and discovered he needed to run down into a little valley and identify details painted on the faces of the indigenous people. He immediately took off at a dead run down into the area where the indigenous people were. As he rounded a curve on his way down he looked back over his shoulder at his wife cheering him on. That was the point in which he ran smack dab into a pole.
Al, still looking at the laptop screen over the parson’s shoulder, said in a quiet voice, “Well, there’s a detail he missed.”
The parson stepped down from his step ladder, took a few steps backward, and looked up at the sign in front of his church whose message he’d just changed. He nodded in agreement with himself that the spacing was okay. He smiled as he read the new proclamation: If you don’t go to church because of the hypocrites, worship here. We need one more.
As he was folding the little two step ladder, he heard a voice behind him. “Hello, Parson.”
The parson turned to behold Debra, a young lady just a few months short of being a teenager reading the sign. “I think that’s funny,” she said.
“I do, too,” replied the parson.
“Where’s your folks?” asked the parson, realizing school was still in session and she was alone.
“Oh, she’s at Dollar General,” said Debra as she pointed toward the store. “I asked her to let me off so I could talk to you.”
“You didn’t go to school today?”
“No sir,” I didn’t. I’ve been at my aunt’s house in Tennessee. I spent the weekend up there to be with my cousin during her gymnastic competition. Mom, let me stay an extra day. So, by the time we got back it was really too late to go to school. So here I am.”
“Well, walk with me while I put this ladder up, okay”.
“Okay,” she said. “Look, I can carry the ladder.” And she darted around the parson to take charge of the ladder.
Ladder placed in its place, the parson said, “So Debra, was there something special you wanted to talk about? Is it serious?”
“It’s serious,” said Debra, averting her eyes from the parson and toward the ground. Her voice was just above a whisper.
“Well, let’s go sit on the porch,” suggested the parson.
Sitting on benches facing each other, the parson continued, “What’s up?”
Debra stared at the parson. The parson noted how watery her eyes were and knew what was coming.
“My mom told me they announced at church Sunday you are dying.”
“I am,” said the parson.
“I thought that new drug and your operation killed your cancer.”
“It did,” said the parson, “but there must have been some microscopic cancer cell that they missed, and now that cell has multiplied and multiplied.”
“Why don’t they cut it out and give you some more of the new drug?”
“They can’t cut it out, Debra, because of where it is inside me. And the drug was only approved for the experiment. I am taking another drug, but I don’t think the doctors feel like it will work.”
Debra was silent a moment. She fidgeted on the bench as she stared at the concrete. Finally, she looked up. “Can I sit beside you?” she asked.
“Sure,” replied the parson as he patted a spot beside him.
She moved to the spot, settled back, rested her head on the parson’s shoulder. “Does it hurt?”
“No, it doesn’t hurt,” the parson said. “And if it ever hurts it will be only in the last few days. And my doctor will give me some medicine to take care of pain.”
“Will you have to go back to the hospital?”
“I don’t think so,” the parson said
She reached down and began rubbing the end of the parson’s shirt cuff between her thumb and index finger. She began to hum a song the parson did not recognize.
“But you’re my pastor,” she said.
“I’ll always be your pastor,” said the parson. “But I won’t be physically here much longer.”
“How much longer?”
“Some time between now and next October, or maybe a little longer than that, I’ll be going.”
“You know I’ll miss you.”
“I know you will. And as long as you miss me part of me will live.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“You’re doing it,” the parson said. “You’re being my friend.”
Debra’s mother drove up to the bottom of the steps leading from the porch. “I guess she wants me to get in the car,” Debra whispered.
She removed herself from the bench and held her hand out to the parson. The parson took her hand and walked with her down the steps. Debra’s mother was looking out the driver’s side window, seemingly not wanting to talk. The parson opened the passenger door. Debra got in and fastened her seat belt. They began to drive away.
As the car was pulling onto the highway, the parson heard her yell, “I love you, Parson.”
The parson was sitting in his favorite diner, sipping a cup of decaf and reading a novel on his Kindle. Ms. Penny, his canine sweetheart, was visiting with some rescue dogs at the local pet rescue center.
As the parson touched the screen to move to a new page, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning he beheld another pastor from a nearby town. “Howard, how are you? I haven’t seen you for a while. How are the wife and kids?”
Howard caught the parson up on the antics of the children and the educational endeavors of his wife, as the parson directed him to sit across in the booth.
Betty, one of the servers approached, “Can I get you anything?” She asked of Howard. Howard hesitated.
The parson intervened, “Yeah, you can get him something,” he told Betty. “Bring him a slice of that apple pie and plop a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on it. And give him a mug of that special brew of coffee.”
Betty turned away as Howard began to make protest.
The parson and Howard exchanged gossip about various elders serving in their area, the excitement around the conference over the new bishop, and other such preacher things.
After Betty had placed the pie with ice cream and a cup of coffee in front of Howard, he dipped his spoon into the ice cream and pie and made an audible sigh. The parson smiled.
Howard said, “So, Parson, what do you think about all this flap over the President not calling the widows of the fallen soldiers?”
The parson thought long. He took a deep breath and, then, said:
“Okay, Howard I’ll share my thoughts. First, the President waited too long to call. It’s inexcusable. But as much as I’m not a Donald Trump fan, I understand why it took so long. I also understand why he botched it in the end.
“Let me share a story with you. I had two good friends in college, Daniel and Julia. They were special. I loved to be with both or either of them.
“Daniel, was very patriotic. After college he went into the Army as a Lieutenant. He fought bravely in Vietnam. He received several citations. He was a hero. I remember him writing me one time and telling me how much he missed Julia. He shared with me some of the horrors of war. But, he confessed, it was what he’d volunteered for.
“Daniel came home after his first tour. I can’t remember how long he was home, but I know it was long enough to get Julia pregnant. And then he went back for his second tour.
“My memory is fuzzy. But I know he never got home before the baby was born. It was a boy. Julia invited me over the day she got home from the hospital and I helped her hang some of those baby things over the crib. I remember holding the baby while Julia did some Julia stuff in the kitchen. You know, Howard, to this day I can remember the smell of the baby.
“Strange, even with my fuzzy memory, I remember it was a Tuesday afternoon, a year or a year-and-a-half after the baby was born, when Julia called me. ‘Come,’ she said, ‘please come.’
“I headed to her house. I was the first one there after the two soldiers had come to tell her of Daniel’s death. The hero was dead. Julia’s heart was broken. A newborn baby had no father.
“Here’s the thing, Howard. I was a pastor. I had been certified in pastoral counseling. And when those two soldiers left I had not the foggiest idea of what to say or what to do.
“I took care of the baby. I made some supper, knowing no one would eat it. But I had to do something. Finally, darkness slowly closed the door to the sky. The baby slept. Julia and I sat on the sofa.
“‘Julia,’ I said, ‘I don’t know what to say.’
“‘There’s nothing adequate you could say,’ she said. ‘Daniel knew what he was doing. But this is so unfair.’
“I can’t remember any more of the talk that night. I know the television was on but I don’t remember any sound. Finally, in the quietness and the limited light I heard Julia’s voice, ‘Will you hold me?’
“She put her head on my shoulder, I wrapped my arms around her. She started weeping, hysterically weeping, body shaking weeping, snot coughing weeping. ‘Damn him. Damn him.' Her fists pounded my chest. 'Oh, I love him.’ The tears puddled in that little space formed by my clavicle until it filled and the tears ran down my chest with a tickle. She cried. She beat on my chest. She cussed Daniel again and again. She professed her love for him again and again.
“I don’t know what time it was. But eventually, well after the sun had risen I woke. She was still asleep on my shoulder. My arm hurt like something else, but it was nothing to her pain. My shirt was soaked with tears.
“She woke. She raised up. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I didn’t do anything,’ I said.
“She sat up straight. ‘Do you know what’s going to happen next?’
“‘I do,’ I said. I explained the protocol of Daniel being brought home with honors. I told her about the military honors that were due him should she want them. I told her she would be given a flag from a grateful nation.
“I don’t know how long I stayed that day, Howard. All I know is that in all that time I was with her that night, and in all the days that followed, I didn’t know what to say to her.
“So, Howard, I’m going to cut the President a little slack here. No one knows what to say to the widow or widower of a fallen warrior. There’s nothing appropriate to say.
“Maybe all of us should just lift our prayers of gratitude to the Lord for a fallen warrior. We don’t have anything we can say to the widow or the widower. But we can be with them in their grief. I think that’s the most we can do."
Please indulge me today. I want to pay tribute to a pastor I know. He's retiring this coming June. To tell you the truth, I don't think any of the other elders of the church will notice he's gone. But, truly, he will be missed.
Now, I'm going to speak the truth here, and, as such, we'll give this pastor a fictional name. Why don't we call him John, as in John Wesley?
John went to seminary the same time I did. He was much younger than I. I'd taken an extended tour of the world at the expense of my Uncle Sam before entering the seminary. John and I knew each other but were not friends. We just didn't run in the same circles.
I, at that age, tended to be clinging to physical exploits. I ran marathons, played on an semi-pro soccer team, all those macho things of one in a perpetual struggle to defy aging.
John was never seen running. John was never seen participating in competitive sports. I'm not sure what John did, but John appeared to be less than motivated to break a sweat.
I don't know what kind of student John was. He never said much in class; in fact, I don't recall him ever saying anything in class. But when our time there was done he marched across the stage and received his diploma.
John was sent to his first full-time appointment. He went with an eagerness that matched his permanent smile. His appointment was a three church circuit. He rode that circuit with the determination of an eighteenth century circuit rider. He lasted two years there. Eighteen months into that appointment the folks asked for a new pastor. They were not without reason. John, you see, couldn't preach his way out of a wet paper bag.
I remember talking to John just before he went to his new church. He was happy as a lark. The bishop, he told me, had given him this new opportunity and he and his wife couldn't wait to get there. And then he told me how lucky the pastor who was following him was, how great those congregations were.
It wasn't more than three years that the cycle repeated. Did I mention John couldn't preach his way out of a wet paper bag? Once again he was delighted at having a new opportunity for ministry. Once again he was happy for the lucky stiff who was following him. And not once did he complain.
That pattern went on throughout John's entire ministry. For about four decades he moved from one pastoral charge to another with amazing frequency. When he was moving to his last church he once again was delighted to be going there and had told the replacement pastor how lucky she was.
Folks weren't impressed with John's preaching. They weren't impressed with his passivity. And yet …
Whenever someone was in the hospital, John was there. Whenever someone's relative was jailed, John was there pleading with the Sheriff for some consideration. Whenever someone lost a loved one, John held their hand. And whenever someone was in pain, John cried with them; John cried real tears of empathy.
I happened to be present on two occasions when John was asked to open a meeting with prayer. You know, we pastors pray all the time, at least publicly we do. But John, oh, wow, when John prayed it was something different. I think John and the Lord were well acquainted. I think, if anyone does, John knows God's middle name. They talk a lot.
John and I, over the years, knew who each other were. We spoke to each other at gatherings of the brothers and sisters. I like John. I think John likes me. But it was only occasionally, after seminary, our paths crossed.
Nevertheless, when Ms. Parson died, John was there. John drove halfway across the state to just sit in a pew and share my sorrow. He hugged me after the service and whispered in my ear, “I will pray for you twice a day for the next year.” John didn't say “I'll pray for you.” John told me he'd do it twice a day and for how long. It may well have been John's prayers that got me through it.
Did I mention John couldn't preach his way out of a wet paper bag? He couldn't. It's not bragging when I say I can preach circles around John. But John has one up on me. John and Jesus are best friends.
Copyright The material on this site, unless otherwise noted, is the property of the author. Church-related use is permissible, but a small nod of the head in the direction of the author will be appreciated.