Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moving--Chapter Four

Well, the Lovette's moving saga continues. We have a good offer on our house in Birmingham. If all goes well (and anybody who knows anything about real estate today knows that just about everything is tentative) we should close on Dec. 8th. So if you are a praying person please pray a selfish prayer for the Lovette family. Or alternative suggestions: burn candles...dig a hole and put a St. Joseph figure upside down in the Lovette’s yard (a friend swears this will sell a house) or you might dig out your old rosary. Other suggestions: turn flips or perhaps do a rain dance somewhere on your property where no one can see you. Anyway—we hope that this ordeal of moving will soon be over.

We are still packing. Boxes are everywhere! I feel like we live in a warehouse. But yesterday I found two huge bins in an obscure corner of the attic. Opening the cover I discovered much of my correspondence and letters I have received in my work through the years. My first thought was: “Why would I save all these letters and notes and cards?” So slowly I opened the first box of letters and I found a treasure.

These letters tell the story of much of my ministerial life. I found the letter from Tom Corts, Chair of the Search Committee in Georgetown Kentucky telling me the Faith Baptist Church would pay me $6,000 if I came. (I did.) I found a multitude of letters from churches all over where I had been recommended or lusted after. Some sent polite Dear John letters saying: “No.” Some places where I had written my own Dear John letters and said “No” to some church. I saved everything birthday cards, letters of acceptance and resignation, newspaper clippings showing the Lovette family the week we were called to a church. I showed that picture to my wife and asked, “Why would anybody call a Pastor and his family that looked like this?”

But the biggest surprise of them all was the letters and cards and thank-you notes from people across the years. They told of baptisms and funerals and dinners and a huge collection of sympathy cards when my Mother died. This is not a brag article. Any Pastor who thinks very long will resonate with what I am writing. I unearthed names and faces I had not thought about for years and years. And they took me back, way back to other times and other places. And for all the fretting I have done through the years because of that tiny cadre of mean opponents and that handful of ugly unsigned letters—these were not only in the minority—few and far between. The gratitude and thanks that poured over me as I read this multitude of notes and letters was overwhelming. People really did care. Ministry mattered terribly. Sermons sometimes, when you least expected them, really did touch someone. All those hospital trips and funerals and weddings and communion services were remembered.

Looking back I can now say this great cloud of witnesses in every church I ever had kept me going. They graced me and they loved me and my family. And whatever errors I made and stupidities I fell into—these (thank God) were mostly overlooked. Most of the folk sitting out there week after week forgave me for a multitude of foibles.

So here I sit with a lump in my throat--surrounded by thanksgiving and gratitude from these dust-covered boxes. These have made me remember names and faces and times long gone. So thanksgiving has come early for me this year. I am grateful for so many, many people along the way.

My good friend Tom Corts prayed at the last service I served as Pastor. His words were very moving: “We offer thanks for those who cannot remember his name...but remember yours (Lord) because of him.” At the end of this long diatribe as I wade through these correspondence files, I want to thank God for so many whose names I can no longer remember but I remember your name Lord, because of them. They kept me going—and still do.

“Now thank we all our God,
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom the world rejoices—
Who from our mother’s arms
Hath blessed us on our way—
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.”

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