My Birmingham friends Philip and Shellyn Poole started this with their Christmas letter. According to that document, last year they learned such lessons as home warranty companies consider water lines to the fridge to be “plumbing” and not “refrigerator repair,” tires for small cars are costlier than for trucks, and the ever-popular “Poorly lit stop signs are still stop signs.” We may assume someone got a ticket and is having trouble getting over it!
Here are my top ten lessons of 2007. (A disclaimer: I’m doing this at one sitting and no doubt will think of a dozen more later.)
10. If you are in Gardendale, Alabama, don’t even think about driving past that white line at the intersection. Doing so cost me $133, and yes, I am still having a little trouble getting over that!
9. Southern Baptists are still the greatest people in the world. Two years after Katrina, they’re still flowing into New Orleans in record numbers to help us rebuild. We’re so grateful this country has not been hit with another hurricane of any size to draw away the attention and resources. For those interested in coming to help, go to www.joemckeever.com and click on the house at the top of the page.
8. Rebuilding New Orleans is not going to be a ten-year job as I previously thought. We’re now talking about 25 years. I’ll be in Heaven when it’s finished, but I’ll be cheering you guys on!
7. Had I brushed my teeth regularly as a child when Mom told me to do so, I could have saved myself over $12,000 this year alone. How does that line go from the mechanic–“Pay me now or pay me later!”
6. Bill Taylor’s innovative plan for helping our struggling churches–the program is called Unlimited Partnerships–is a wonderfully creative way for pumping new life into our congregations and encouragement into our pastors. He started it March 1, 2007, and already it has made a lasting difference in a hundred ways.
5. Friendship is the best thing going. This year, as we continue to deal with the rebuilding of this city, and as my family has dealt with the homegoing of our Dad, we have drawn such incredible strength from friends. I’ve frequently (and teasingly) quoted a Canadian pastor friend who says, “A friend is God’s apology for your relatives,” but I’ve got some wonderful kin also, so no apology needed. Just basking in the glow and love of friends.
4. I learned once again that the best way to read the Scripture is not in huge portions at one sitting, but to slow down, savoring the taste of each sentence, thinking about what I’ve read, enjoying it, learning from it. In Eugene Peterson’s incredible book, “Eat This Book,” he makes the point about the Hebrew word “hagah,” found in Psalm 1 (“In that law does he MEDITATE day and night”). That word is translated in Isaiah 31:4 as the “growling” a lion would utter as he gnaws on his dinner. Peterson writes that the Lord’s words are “to be freely taken in, tasted, chewed, savored, swallowed, and digested….”
3. I’ve delighted in discovering we have some healthy churches in my city. Now, health shows up in a hundred ways, but one I saw recently deserves mentioning here. A staff member decided he did not want to be married to his wife anymore and abandoned her and their two children, moving to another state to join up with his high school sweetheart. The pastor and staff went into action and rallied around the spouse and children and led the church to shower them with their love and support. I’ve actually heard people in other churches remarking on the incredible love in that church. From what I know of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is so pleased with the pastor, deacons, and congregation of that church.
2. To my utter amazement and delight, God is using this blog. I will write an article–not because I wanted someone to publish it, but merely because it was on my heart–and a few days later learn that it has been picked up on numerous other websites. Sometimes church newsletters reprint some of these articles, and once in a while the Baptist Press or our state paper, the Baptist Message, will reprint one. One I wrote about two women inmates in a work-release program at a local fast-food restaurant whom my Monday preachers group met and ministered to, that article has been printed and reprinted. The best thing is that the mother and cousin of one of those women, living in other states, read it and have been in touch. Blessing and being blessed; it’s a wonderful arrangement, and I’m so grateful.
1. Heaven is a dearer place now. My father moved away from here and moved in there on Saturday, November 3, 2007. Think of that: my earthly father has moved into my Heavenly Father’s mansion. Since Dad died, I’ve done several funerals of wonderful older friends who loved the Lord too and were basing their salvation and their eternities on the faithful promises of Jesus Christ. Not a one was perfect, not a one deserved to go to Heaven, and not a one went there because his good works outweighed the bad. They were all saved by faith in Christ and Him alone. In their last days, when their minds and bodies were shutting down, they were held in the loving arms of the Good Shepherd. When the time was right, He left the room with them and brought them safely to His House.
My Mom says almost every day when I call her, “I still don’t understand why the Lord didn’t take me the same time he did Pop.” We reassure her that the Lord knew we needed her here and that we couldn’t stand the strain of giving them both up at once. But, she knows and we fully accept that at her age–over 91–it won’t be too long for her. Once in a while, I’ll tell her that all of us will be coming along not far behind, so not to be too anxious about it or wander too far from the gate.
When President William McKinley was dying of a gunshot wound, his grieving wife leaned over his bed and said through her tears, “Oh, Bill–are you going?” He answered, “We’re all going.”
That may be the most important lesson of all for all of us, in this and any year. We’re going; don’t be caught unprepared; get ready.