Tell Me the Story of Jesus

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One of my earliest memories – sitting in a semi-circle in front of a flannel board listening to Mrs. Nanson tell us about Jesus. I can still feel the scratch of the backing against my little fingers as she shows us what holds the paper figures on the sky blue felted board. It’s just a mental snapshot of something that happened every week without fail, but there it is. A moment of sweetness captured like an insect in amber.

Two or three years later and I’m six years old. An odd little child who befriends all the neighbors, I’m four doors down at Sherri Graham’s house, laying out in the sun in the backyard with my friend – who just happens to be about 17. The memory is all wrapped up in the smell of suntan lotion, the loops of the terry cloth towel against my face, and the warmth of the summer day wrapping me up like a big blanket. She’s telling me about Jesus and I consider in my heart that it’s time to accept Him as Savior. Years later she has no recollection of the day when I remind her. I know that I will never forget a teenage girl took the time and undoubtedly patience to talk to a little girl about eternal things.

When I turn seven, I decide it is time to get baptized. Mrs. Badry teaches my group the significance of the step we are about to take. She is all musical voice and hair the color of light as she tells us about Jesus. Forty-something years later she remembers me as the girl who rode her bike all over town so she wouldn’t miss out on anything. I certainly didn’t miss out on this.

Woven in and among these are memories of my grandmother. By weekday, she scurries along with a spotless home and a boundless kitchen. A woman who never sat down through an entire meal – always hopping up to serve. Ah, but on the Sundays when it is her turn to tell us about Jesus, the power flowing from her nearly five foot tall frame is a sight to behold. A well-worn hankie tucked into the palm of her hand, she speaks with authority but never harshness. When she teaches Sunday school in her tiny church, we march into the room to the left of the stage and sit in wee chairs from Mexico. She sings with us, “The devil is a sly old fox. If I could catch him I’d put him in a box. I’d lock that box and throw away the key, for all those tricks he’s played on me.” Her faith is a ponderous and awesome thing that she shares with the smallest of her grandchildren. Even then I can feel the responsibility of the truth she entrusts to us.

It is the first day of November – the month of thankfulness. I am so thankful today for the women in my childhood who gave to me the gift of faith, time, patience, life. Women young and old who did not discount my youth or dismiss my presence. Women who were the Light-Bearers to my lonely heart and welcomed me into the circle of belief. All but one of these are already at the feet of Jesus and will stretch out their arms to receive me on the day I join them there. They already know their significance in my story, but I wanted you to know them as well.

Take a moment today to honor the women in your story. The Light-Bearers of faith that made the difference to you. And tell them or their families of their legacy of eternity.

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Mommy Moore’s Sweater

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I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore.  It’s an odd item for a tiny Pentecostal Holiness minister to own.  I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it.  Mommy Moore and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years – trading preaching and Sunday School responsibilities.  Long before the days of televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job.  Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did.  Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.

I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child.  I have Mom’s Bible, the leather cracked and worn soft in her strong yet gentle hands, pages highlighted, notated, loved.  It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit.  My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries.  My parents pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for about ten years.  Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade.  Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby, hurt by his elder board and neglected by his supervisor.  His sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.

I have my brother still.  He pastored for thirty years and for a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. Their faces become more beautiful with each passing year and they seem not to age at all.  Eric and Susan will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years, but those they served will say the privilege was in having them as pastors.  Countless people all over the world testify of their wisdom, encouragement, and mentoring.

Three stories, three lives, three distinct experiences.  What made the difference?  It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation.   Each of them studied the Word, prayed, felt a sincere call to ministry, and devoted their hearts and lives to the Church.  In retrospect it seems the difference was, at least in part, a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, and personal.  

Interestingly, this is a theme that cuts across denominational and demographic lines.  The vast majority of pastors say they have no close friend or mentor, and take no personal Sabbath themselves on another day of the week.  When questioned, many reply that the demands of ministry don’t allow for either.

My family’s stories and those of pastors everywhere drive the ministry of Barnabas House.  What can you and I do to have a positive impact on our pastors in the areas of rest and relationship?  We can encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, and put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors.  We can forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, and bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway.  We can understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.

This winter I will once again wrap myself in that scratchy, electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand.  I will remember Mommy Moore’s legacy in our family and in so many others.  Because of her I will choose joy, rest, and relationship, and I will sow that into my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?

WHEEE!!!

Roller Coaster of Emotions

In the movie Parenthood, Steve Martin’s character is coming apart at the seams from all the unplanned family crises. His wife (Mary Steenburgen) says to him, “Life is messy.” Through gritted teeth he replies, “I HATE MESSY!” In his mind’s eye he is on a roller coaster hanging on for dear life. The lack of control is terrifying to him, yet he sees others on the same ride squealing with delight, their hands in the air.

So often I feel like him, clinging to the safety bar as the car I’m riding in plunges toward the earth. Wondering why so many others around me seem to be having the time of their lives. However, most of the time my fear manifests itself as anger. Maybe anger feels more powerful than fear, more in control. Angry that God can’t seem to accept my plan as good. Angry that others are having more fun than I am.

I don’t want to be angry. There is a generational heritage of anger on one side of my family that I want to break. I want the legacy of my life to be different. I think that can only be changed by acknowledging the fear that drives it. And surrendering that fear to God.

I’m growing, learning, beginning to trust that the car is on a track, I’m wearing a safety bar, and Someone is in control of the ride. When my car takes a turn I didn’t see coming, I have to tell myself that my God knows all the turns on this ride and I can choose to fret or to enjoy the ride.

By the end of the movie Steve Martin’s character can see himself on that same ride, but with a completely different experience. I’m not there yet, but I’m a lot closer than I used to be. Where are you on this roller coaster?