Strange things happen in life. Judy and I have two sons, David and Philip. We love and admire them. We take great pride in them. But we look at them differently. I look at them as middle-aged men now. I don't quite know how it happened so rapidly — their aging, I mean. But they have and they have aged well. However, to their mother, they are still her little boys.
Y'all know me. Sometimes I get in a preachy mood. This is one of those weeks. My daughter, Susannah, is a lover of words like her papa. Recently she was driving in Atlanta where she works, and she saw a sign advertising "refinished, restored and refurbished furniture." So she rang me up to report this and ask when I had ever heard of something being "furbished." If something can be refurbished, it has to sometime have been "furbished." Right? I laughed and confessed that the answer to her question was "never."
I stopped in the other day to say hello to my good friends Carl and Bette Moore. They have a heating and air conditioning business on South Main Street in Kannapolis. Carl and Bette are admired by everyone who knows them. I sure do love them. Carl is quiet but very thoughtful. He has a wry sense of humor. Bette is about as big as a humming bird and even more beautiful.
It turned out that Carl has recently had a birthday. My first impulse was to sing "Happy Birthday" to him. I refrained because I don't like to depress my friends with my poor singing voice. Especially on their birthdays. Carl is now 90 years old. Bette is 89 years old. They have been married more than 60 years, and their love for each other is obvious.
Most readers of this divine drizzle each week are church-goers. You have a pastor and many of your pastors have spouses. Of course, a minister's partner plays a very important and delicate role both in public and behind the scenes. It can be a wonderful thing to be a pastor's spouse. But it can also be a stressful thing.
Well, John Killinger, my friend and mentor of almost 50 years and author of dozens of books, has written a new one. He has spent a lifetime as a pastor and teacher of pastors. So he knows what he's talking about in The Ministry Life: 101 Tips for Ministers' Spouses (Smith & Helwys Publishing, Inc.). In this new book he offers a treasury of ideas to help the spouses of ministers in their unique roles in the church. And he invited several spouses to contribute 10 tips out of their experience as ministerial mates. My wife, Judy, is one of those contributors. I love her contribution which follows:
Parables are wonderful things when they are told to teach us how to care for each other. They can also be maddening things when curious minds try to track down the original source of the wisdom. The following story is often attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok, Lithuania. However, variations on the story also appear in Chinese and Hindu cultures. I first heard it many years ago. It is a favorite story, often repeated by Christian preachers. Here it is:
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."
Stuff of great importance may be happening all around us on some days but a particular report will leap out of the news and slap you right up on the side of your head and say to you, "Look at this!" That happened to me when I read that state and county law enforcement authorities in South Carolina had raided a cockfighting ring. They arrested 27 people — mostly men — and found marijuana, cocaine, firearms and several thousand dollars in cash on the premises. They also seized 117 roosters ... and one duck.
I would never make the accusation that a preacher's story is anything but perfectly truthful. Sometimes, however, I know that we parsons can be guilty of toying with the facts. Sometimes this is a good way to get at the truth. The great preacher and teacher Jesus was a speaker of parables. A parable is not factual but can be very true if told by the right person.
So, you be the judge of this story. A preacher said he was walking in his back yard when he heard voices coming from a fiery red, blooming azalea bush. He said it nearly made his hairpiece pop off. It reminded him of the story of Moses and the burning bush. He looked behind the bush and saw two little boys — his five-year-old son and one of his little pals. They had obviously found a dead bird and were conducting a funeral for it. They had dug a hole, found a shoebox and lined it with cotton batting. They were preparing to bury the little fowl. The minister's son began to offer a prayer. With a somber voice, he intoned his version of what he thought his father always said on such occasions: "Glory be unto the Faaaather, and to the Sonnnn ... and into the hole he goooooes."
You want to hear a beautiful story? I have known Marty Folsom so long and so well that I often forget that she lost her hearing when she was a young girl. She has learned to communicate so well that she has her own communications business, Forest Light Design, in Statesville. To show what I mean, I once called Marty on the phone only to be reminded in a kind voice by her secretary, "Well, you know Marty cannot hear."
Winter cold provides us with both blessings and curses. There is the beauty of snowfall. On the other hand, there is the treachery of ice storms. Even the Bible speaks favorably about snow. Isaiah 1:18 reads: "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be as crimson, they shall be as cotton."
The Bible rarely mentions ice and then not poetically or with strong praise. The truth is, the Bible has no more affection than we have for an ice storm in winter.
A newspaper advice columnist is reported to have received the following note from a concerned reader: "You told a woman whose husband had lost all interest in sex to send him to a doctor. Well, my husband has lost all interest in sex, and he is a doctor. Now, what do I do?"
I confess, that is a rather earthy request for advice. But, earthy concerns require earthy communications. This is a real world after all. Real people have real problems that call for real advice.
I reckon I may be partly responsible for this incredible winter weather. I have sometimes professed my enjoyment of a nice winter snow storm. To watch snow falling is, to me, a wonderful sight. It brings a calmness over my spirit like few other experiences in life. God knows this about me and in most winters provides me just enough snow here in North Carolina to keep me reasonably serene.
Rarely do we get too much. Sometimes we don't get quite enough to suit me. In fact, on Groundhog Day I was not terribly disappointed to learn that we could expect six more weeks of winter weather. I was hoping for two or three days of snow with temperatures at about 31 degrees, safe clear roads, crackling fireplaces and toasty, warm homes. We only build fireplaces anymore here in the South for the atmosphere in our homes. So I like a little snow for atmosphere.