Vacation Whizzings

Thirty-two years ago–that would be the summer of ’76–my wife and I took the children on a Bicentennial vacation up the East Coast. We were combining trips to the Southern Baptist Convention and my first session as a trustee of the Foreign Mission Board with our own personal travels, and decided on a theme for our journeying.

We visited presidential homes. Starting in Columbis, TN, we called on President James Polk. In Nashville, it was President Andy Jackson. In Staunton, VA, Woodrow Wilson was not at home, but we went on in his house anyway. We visited with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and went through the White House (if Jerry Ford was at home, no one was saying). Later, we drove north and saw the hometown of Calvin Coolidge, Hyde Park where FDR came from and returned to, and in New Hampshire, the home of Franklin Pierce. I think that’s all.

This time, I’m making pretty much the same journey, except this is not about presidents, but calling on some of my preacher friends. Of course, the main idea is to visit our grandchildren in Charlotte, NC and in Laconia, NH, but it’s a great opportunity to see some old friends.

If any of the preacher-friends I’ve visited are reading this, they can relax. I’m not telling a thing. What happens in McDonalds stays in McDonalds (or the Waffle House in Spartanburg or Nordstrom’s Cafe in Charlotte). Still, the experience is proving to be quite a blessing to me personally.

I’m always surprised on encountering ministers who never connect with their colleagues in the Lord’s work, for whatever reason. That might be a good subject to pursue for a future article here–why so many pastors are loners.

My brother Ron pastored a church that had aligned itself with an independent Baptist group for a number of years. He attended the various national gatherings of those pastors, and told me something I’ve never forgotten. “Most of them are independent because they’r so headstrong they can’t get along with anybody!” Ron is a great tease, so I’m not sure how strongly he wants to associate himself with that remark, but he reads this and can speak for himself. It is, however, a truism applying to a lot of our guys.

I asked a pastor, “Why do most pastors have so few friends in the ministry?” He didn’t hesitate. “It’s insecurity. They’re afraid they’ll be found out.”

Wow. Is that true? If it is, it’s a sad commentary that we who have such a great charge from the Lord and are the focus of such tremendous expectations and burdens from the church community would try to go it alone. (Alone? I know, I know, the Lord is with us. But reading the Bible, we see the Lord never sent disciples out alone.)

One of my pastor friends is in his second year at his present church. He said, “My predecessor did very little actual pastoring, so when I came in, I really gave that a lot of attention.” He smiled and added, “Problem is, now they expect me to continue at that same rate and it’s about to kill me!”

Expectations of church members can be killers. Pastors need to take the leadership here and help the congregation to direct their expectations toward the Lord, and thus free up the minister to do what he can, but not everything he possibly can. He has a family to lead and his own health to take care of.

One of the great blessings of my life has been my relationship with other pastors. From my earliest childhood, I have adored the pastor. When I became one, I felt it was the greatest honor the Lord could ever have given. In seminary, I made friends with people like Bobby Hood and Hugh Martin and Frank Bishop with whom I am still in contact. In my first pastorate following seminary, the neighboring pastors–Joe Walker and James Richardson to name two–became my dearest brothers.

Most of the church moves I’ve made over the years resulted from a recommendation from some colleague whom I’ve known. An outsider–or a pastor from a denomination using another system–would use the term ‘crony-ism,” meaning friends taking care of friends. But it ain’t so. I have many friends I’ve never recommended anywhere. And the ones I’ve recommended to positions, I’m confident it’s been under the Lord’s leadership.

Peter said Satan walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5). We’ve all seen enough nature shows to know the lion is looking for the isolated prey, one too old or sickly or headstrong to keep up with the others.

If Satan’s plan is to divide our ministers, in many cases he can check that off his list because we’ve done it to ourselves.

What a shame.

When our proposed trip to South Dakota fell through–Margaret’s sister and brother-in-law from Seattle had to cancel because of their health issues–I told her we’re keeping the schedule and going on vacation. With health problems of her own, she suggested I go see our grandchildren. The three in New Hampshire, particularly, see precious little of us and us them. So, that’s how it came about. I’m alone and missing my wife, but frankly, am enjoying the trip.

The challenge of such a vacation is to make myself relax while still achieving some 500 miles a day by car. Not figured out just yet how to pull that off.

I’ve decided there is an epidemic of tail-gating in this nation. On freeways of eight lanes, traffic whizzing by at 70 miles an hour or more, people still pull right up to your bumper before passing you. And it’s that way everywhere. Whatever are people thinking. If they are.

As I put the Greg Iles novel into the CD player, halfway through the first disc, I realized I had already read this book. But the reader made it come alive so well, I stayed with the program. Three days later, I’ve finished with the 15th disc and loved it. Now, I’m working on “The Hoax” by Clifford Irving, his account of faking a Howard Hughes autobiography some years back. The good thing there is I can fast forward some of the more tedious parts.

Don’t worry, Mom. I have some Bible studies and prayer conferences on CD also, and so it’s not all crime novels. But a good part of it is. Sure helps the miles to whiz by.

Thursday night through Sunday night, Laconia, New Hampshire with Leah, 18, Jessica, 17, and JoAnne, 10. Oh yeah, and their Mom, our daughter Carla. I can’t wait.

7 thoughts on “Vacation Whizzings

  1. Nothing like spending time with the Grandkids. Mine are coming down next weekend to see us and we can’t wait to see them. Now that my oldest daughter and family are in Mississippi we’ll get a chance to see them a lot more. The youngest was already in Mississippi and now they’re all there and we love it.

  2. I made a special trip in 1976 too. I was born ;).

    Road trips are so much fun- Hope you have a great vacation!

  3. I’m assuming you did NOT come through Knoxville; for surely, surely, surely that wouldn’t have happened without even a phone call???!!!!!


  4. I am so glad you are visiting with family and friends, and I hope that your trip is safe and restful.

    I remember when it was just books on tape, but these on discs now are so much better, I think. Hope you brought a camera and take lots of pictures, they are great memory preservers.

  5. Thanks so much for drawing my two kiddos last night at FBC Alexandria! It was a delight to meet you, and Emma Clare is anxious to color in copies of the drawings of herself and Turner. Thanks again, and enjoy the rest of your tip.

  6. Joe: Enjoy the trip. But keep watchiing out for the other fellow. You probably have heard the story about the fellow whose wife called him on his cell phone knowing that he was driving. “Be careful out there! Some idiot is driving the wrong way on a 4 lane road!” The husband replied. “Yes, I know. Everybody I meet is going the wrong way!

    By the way. I will be going to Salem Baptist church where I was serving prior to retirement. When you get back I will be in touch. Thanks for being a friend.

    Over the years I have wished many times for fellowship with other Pastor’s. Most of them are caught up in their own small world and will not take the time just to talk. If you do not have something specific to talk about they are on their way. Others I have tried to be with monopolize the conversation and do not want to hear what you might want to say. They just keep talking. For fellowship I now go to a local restaruant and sit and talk with some older men of the community and drink coffee. It helps me stay in touch with the community and have some good fellowship.!

  7. Thanks, Joe, for remembering. It is a pleasure for me to know that our fellowship, even from seminary days, has been a blessing to you, because it certainly has been to me. Hugh Martin.

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