I have just got to share with you this bragging word: “I am the luckiest guy in the world.” The reason I say this is I had the best vocation in the world… I was a United Methodist Pastor. I got to spend forty years serving churches all over Western North Carolina – from Murphy in the west to Greensboro in the east – Eden in the north and Midland and Asheboro in the south. I have served a church that had seven (Yep 7 members) and some having six hundred members. I have had some mighty good times and some horribly bad experiences. I have witnessed great joy and unbelievable sadness. But that is the life of a pastor. You win some, lose some, and some get rained out. Do you know that as lovable as I am, not everybody agreed with my own personal opinion of my gifts and graces. Through it all I found that not taking myself so seriously was a grace that all pastors need to understand and develop.
What brought all this to my pea brain tonight was a while back I was honored to be asked to return to a former church and celebrate the wedding of a young lady who was just one of the precious children we enjoyed at that church. She was funny. She was her own person. We all just loved those kids. I made it a habit in those days of having a children’s message. I loved doing that… felt like Art Linkletter at times – because I loved these kids and I loved the wonder in their eyes and the honesty of their thoughts. Many a Sunday I have had my sides hurting from laughter from something one of the children said. It not only happened in that church, but in every church I served where I did a children’s time. I know some pastor’s do not do that and that is fine… but we lose a lot when we do not spend time with the children. Take the time to laugh with them, visit with them, talk with them about stuff they enjoy. I know you will be amazed by what they know and what they say.
As I said, I returned to a church I served over twenty years ago to celebrate the wedding of one of those children who sat at my feet during five years of children’s messages. And believe me she was a hoot… on top of her game… ready for me every Sunday. Today she is all grown up and marrying this very nice young man she met in college. You can see in their eyes and in the way they speak with each other that they are really in love and really respect one another. Boy was I ever honored to be able to participate in her life in this special way.
All of this got me to thinking about the good times we had in that church. What a great spirit of love, family and cooperation in that place all those years. We were a growing congregation – not by great numbers – but a steady growth each year. There were a few people that were real characters who got my goat all the time. One was and man named Buren. At the parsonage on moving day… Shirley and I were moving in. Buren was there along with some other men from the church to help us move in. I noticed burden was gathering up some empty boxes. He looked at me and said: “Preacher, we are going to keep these boxes in a safe, dry place. Just in case we don’t like you there will be plenty of boxes for you to use moving out.” I almost fell on the floor laughing.
The second thing he did (which I can share) happened during Sunday school assembly one Sunday morning. Carl, the superintendent, was leading us through some thoughts on stewardship saying: “I’ve always heard that if you are experiencing a drought it is because you aren’t paying the preacher enough.” Buren chimed in saying: “We are paying him he just ain’t sending it in.” Again, rolling in the pews.
Another man in the church was a big-time fisherman. Thurmond would always brag that he once caught a fish whose shadow weighed two pounds. He took me fishing one day at the city lake in Asheboro. We were in his little John boat. I was fishing with a cork, sinker and hook. He was fly fishing. That meant that in this little six-foot boat with us sitting opposite ends, I had this fly (a feather weight lure with a hook hidden in it), swinging back and forth over my head. Suddenly, he caught me in the ear with that lure. That kinda finished the day. The next Sunday I made the announcement from the pulpit that “Thurmond was indeed the greatest fisherman I had ever seen. Just the other day, out at city lake, he hooked a two-hundred-pound big mouth bass.” Everybody got a kick out of that.
There were plenty of other people and many experiences that continued to bring us together as a family and attract people to our congregation. It was a good church with great people. We hated to move but we knew it was time.
I will always remember this place with great appreciation that they allowed Shirley and me to spend five short years in their midst as they accepted us into their hearts and homes. Thank you, Guys… for all the great times.
Grace and Peace