Why sit we here until we die? (2 Kings 7:3)
Every pastor has a story or two he used to tell but which was lost because of the years and circumstances. I told this one a few times over twenty years ago and just ran across it in Chuck Swindoll’s book of 1500 stories, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.
Back in the summer of 1982, Larry Walters, truck driver, had too much time on his hands without a clue what to do with it all. Mostly, he sat in his back yard drinking beer and thinking. One day he began to wonder what would happen if he were to get himself several surplus weather balloons, tie them together, and go aloft. He could spy on his neighborhood, and wouldn’t that be fun?
That’s why on July 2nd of that year he rigged up forty-two surplus helium-filled balloons from the U. S. Weather Service or some such agency. He anchored them to a backyard lawn chair he’d bought from Sears in San Pedro, California. Before lifting off, he thoughtfully brought along a pellet gun so he could shoot out a few balloons in case he began to fly too high.
To his utter amazement, the balloons lifted off with a bang. In no time flat he was soaring through the sky, eventually reaching 16,000 feet. That’s three miles, y’all.
I’ve waited a while to tell this, so the host pastor would not put two and two together and a) be embarrassed or b) feel he should march into his local Wal-Mart and confront someone.
I was doing a senior adult revival in a wonderful church in a small Alabama city. Late that afternoon, on my way to the church I saw I was a little early, so stopped by the lccal Wal-Mart to pick up a sketch pad. They have great pads at a reasonable price and I always try to have a couple of extras on hand.
As I neared the checkout stations, I noticed none of the ladies had a single customer. I made some little remark about “which one shall I go to” and then one of them checked me out. Still no customers anywhere near, so as I often do, I said to the checker in front of me, “Hey, smile at me and I’ll sketch you.” It takes a minute or so. “Draw me,” the next one said. I had time, so kept on drawing.
I was on the third or fourth one when a woman walked up. “Sir, you’re not allowed to do that.”
I said, “I’m not allowed to sketch them? I’m not taking them away from their work, and I’m giving them a nice little gift.”
“You’re not allowed to take pictures of the employees,” she said sternly.
“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14).
In no particular order–other than this is the order that occurred to me after going to bed last night (and getting up to write it down!)—here is what I do. Don’t miss the addendum at the end on what I’m not doing right! Might as well tell the rest of the story. Smile, please.
One. I laugh a lot. I love Genesis 21:6, “God has made laughter for me.” Laughter is a vote of confidence in the Lord, that He is in control and has it all in His hands. This means some of what you’ll hear around this house is pure silliness. And I’m good with that. Many years ago, as six-year-old Abby and I played at the swing in her front yard, she said, “We’re being silly, aren’t we, Grandpa?” I said, “Yes, we are. Why do we like to be so silly?” She said, “It’s a family tradition.”
Two. I take a full regimen of vitamins. In the mid-1990s, when I’d gone a decade without seeing a doctor, I went with my wife for her appointment and ended up becoming a patient too. One day the doctor gave me a list of vitamins and minerals (including the baby aspirin and a fiber capsule) she wanted me to start taking. As I left, she said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.” Well, apparently so. I have almost never missed a day, although the list of what I take has varied a little over the years as successive doctors have tweaked it.
Three. I have an annual checkup, complete with bloodwork.
This is Super Bowl week ni our part of Planet Earth. In January 29, 2018’s USA Today, reporter Josh Peter wrote about “infamous Super Bowl” questions which sports reporters have been known to toss to athletes.
During Super Bowl week back in 1994, a reporter asked Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas what got him psyched up for big games. “I read the newspaper and look at all the stupid questions you all ask,” he answered.
So, Reporter Josh Peter gave us some of his “most infamous” (translation: dumb, dumb, dumb!) questions from Super Bowl weeks in years past….
–“Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?” The reporter was asking Quarterback Jim Plunkett to clarify the situation of his parents. Correct answer: Plunkett’s mother is blind and alive, his father blind but no longer living.
We read that and wonder what kind of crassness would prompt a normal human to ask such an unthinking question.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Mary Todd Lincoln was gifted in the dark art of sarcasm. Her sister Elizabeth said of her, “She was also impulsive and made no attempt to conceal her feelings; indeed, it would have been an impossibility had she desired to do so, for her face was an index to every passing emotion. Without desiring to wound, she occasionally indulged in sarcastic, witty remarks, that cut like a Damascus blade, but there was no malice behind them.” Lincoln’s biographer notes, “A young woman who could wound by words without intending to was presumably even more dangerous when angry or aroused.” (Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson).
Woe to the person bound in marriage to one gifted in sarcasm. Lincoln bore many a scar from the blade his wife wielded.
Pity the church member who sits under the teachings of a sarcastic pastor week after week. Such a pastor’s ministry will bear bitter fruit.
My favorite art store often brings in master teachers for classes on various kinds of art. In two weeks, they have an amazing water color artist doing a conference lasting several days and costing nearly $500. On the website the artist lists materials registrants should bring with them. It will not surprise one to learn the materials are specific, numerous, and somewhat expensive. But the last item in “things to bring with you” was this:
A good sense of humor.
That’s a dead giveaway that the artist will be fun and the class enjoyable.
But it started me thinking….
What if churches added that little note as a scroll across the bottom of their websites. “Bring a good sense of humor.”
Doing so would send a message about that church, wouldn’t it?
Did you hear about the senior couple who got married and spent their honeymoon getting out of the car?
It’s funny only if it doesn’t apply to you.
Since it appears we’re now doing a brief series on the subject of seniors remarrying, we thought there should be a place to record things that made us laugh, the silliness that has kept the fun in our relationship.
Oh, one more thing before we go on. Keep in mind that lovers often laugh at things no one else would, that they have secret, little inside jokes based on something said early in the relationship, and so not everyone will find what follows as humorous as we did. And that’s perfectly fine. We’re not going into the stand-up comic business.
Bertha and I had not been seeing each other more than one week, but already knew the Lord was in this. In one of our nightly (8 pm) phone calls, she said, “What would be a deal-breaker for you in this?” One would think this would bring a serious response from me. But my mind doesn’t work that way.
“I speak as a fool” (2 Corinthians 11:23).
Now, the solid born-again, God-called messenger of the Lord has no wish to sound particularly smart. True, he does not want to come across as ignorant, but he is not insecure, has nothing to prove, and is not there to impress. He is a messenger, delivering the word of God, then getting out of the way.*
However, a less than solid preacher just might want to impress his hearers. An insecure, insincere preacher–one working for the paycheck and seeking the prestige some people bestow on a pastor–might want to bolster his image by dressing up his presentation in some way, and could use some assistance. That’s where we come in. We can help.
Herewith then is our list of tricks which a poor preacher might want to employ.
Tongue in cheek, of course.
“And without parables (great stories!) Jesus did not teach” (Mark 4:34).
I once sat through a long session of a convention of realtors just to hear a motivational speaker. The story with which he opened quickly became a mainstay in my arsenal of great illustrations and sermon-helpers.
Time well spent.
I’ve read entire books and come away with one paragraph that became a staple in my preaching thereafter. It was time well used and money well spent.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling “Eat, Pray, Love” (which I do not recommend, by the way), attended a party 20 years ago and heard something from a fellow whose name she has long forgotten. “Sometimes I think this man came into my life for the sole purpose of telling me this story, which has delighted and inspired me ever since.”
A friend challenged me to write an article under this title. She saw where I posted a number of possible subjects to get the creative writing juices going for preachers, and the one titled “write about the most fun you ever had in the ministry” intrigued her.
I told her I’d give it a try.
With the call of God on one’s life, a place to serve, great friends alongside you, and laughter in your heart, it hardly gets any better than this!
Now, fun comes in many shapes and sizes and varieties in the ministry. Mostly, for me, the “fun” was of two types: a) everyone enjoying one another and b) great things happening in the church.
This article is of the first type; the next article gives the second type of fun.