“And it came to pass…”

I’m tired. There. I said it.

Living in a fallen world can sometimes wear you out. I confess that life is not as stressful as when I was a pastor. Then, I not only had the ongoing stresses of challenges at home, but, also, as Paul called it, “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:28) So, from that standpoint, retirement has made my life bearable, but there are times when the phrase, “and while they were yet speaking” from the book of Job seems like one of those “lifetime Scripture verses” that some people talk about.

However, having said all of that, it is also important for me to say, in the midst of my “tiredness” (is that a word?) I fully confess that God is in control. He knows what He is doing, and He has purpose in every pressure that He has wisely and graciously allowed into my life. While I should never be satisfied with where I am (I should be “pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”), I should be content that God has me right where He wants me (Thanks, Jason Pickard, for starting that Sunday night study on contentment).

Thirty-five years ago, in my first pastorate, I remember Dr. A. J. Quinn saying that his favorite Scripture verse was “And it came to pass,” because he was so glad that it didn’t “come to stay.” So, if you are like me, (tired) I would encourage you to take heed to Paul’s direction to the Galatian church, “ And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow wearytired1.” (Galatians 6:9)

“Didn’t we have a grand time at the funeral?”

I made two trips to my home town over the last two days in order to conduct a funeral for a very sweet lady who was one of the secretaries at our church in years gone by. It was one of those funerals that was relative easy to preach (my text was Psalms 116:15): she was a believer; she lived to be 93 years old; and, I knew her well from both working with her, and ministering to her as her husband battled Parkinson’s Disease for eight long years during the 1980s-1990s.

Funerals in many ways are odd gatherings with each section of the country having its own way of saying good-bye to loved ones, even differing in rituals from rural to urban areas. Where I live the service tends to be divided into two parts: the first speaking of what made the person who had died precious to their loved ones, and the second, a message of comfort from God’s Word, with an effort to point people to Christ through the Gospel.

The time of the visitation and funeral is also an odd mixture of joy and grief. On the one hand, everyone is truly sorry for the loss that has been experienced, and tears and weeping are not an unusual occurrence. However, there is the joy of seeing family and acquaintances that maybe haven’t been seen in years, and often decades. In the last two days I have visited with former church members, old pastor buddies, old school classmates, some of my oldest son’s high school teachers, and even a funeral director that I haven’t seen in years.

Yes, it’s weird to have experienced the various contrasting emotions all in one place, but it explains why the dear lady from beautiful, downtown Gist, Texas, could say, “Didn’t we have a grand time at the funeral?”

Goodbye to An Old Friend

I saw last night that another one of my seminary buddies died (I seem to be hearing news like this more and more often as the years drag on). We took classes together at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and I pastored in the Erath Baptist Association with both him and his father for almost 5 years back in the early 1980s. We were on different sides of the theological divide in Baptist life back then, and still managed to remain friends (of course, I was the crusty old theologically conservative curmudgeon and he chose to use the “moderate” label).

My favorite story of our friendship took place in a Pastoral Ministry class as we were both nearing the end of our time on the Hill. Our professor was notorious for the profound effect he had on his students (he put them all asleep). One spring day I was fighting to keep my eyes open and I glanced over at David and his head was on his desk and he was drooling on his notebook paper (okay, the drooling part I put in for poetic effect). And, I realized then, that it didn’t matter whether one was theologically a liberal or a conservative, Dr. B could put them sound asleep.

I’ll be praying for David’s family in the days to come. May they experience the “peace that passes all understanding.”