“When you take time to journal each day, it’s like snipping out 30 minutes of your life now and sending it ahead far into the future.” –Joe McKeever (Hey, if I don’t quote myself, who do you think will?)
“When was your daughter born?” I asked the mother of the bride.
“October 18, 1993.”
I said, “Was I there?” “Yes, you were,” she said. “We still have the cartoon you drew for us when you came by the hospital.”
Then it hit me: I have that day in my journal.
Back in the decade of the 1990s, I kept a hand-written, daily journal, requiring a full half-hour of writing each night. In time, it filled 56 volumes. For reasons long forgotten, I gave it up after the year 2000 arrived. (Probably because it took up so much space.)
The journal says I did indeed go to the hospital when her daughter was born. I photocopied the two pages and sent to her. And decided someone might appreciate reading about that time in my ministry.
So, here goes….
Monday, October 18, 1993.
Up at 4:45 am. Walked from 5:05 to about 6 o’clock. (I walked on the levee beside the Mississippi River. We lived in River Ridge, a New Orleans suburb, while I pastored nearby FBC of Kenner, another suburb. The N.O. international airport sits across the boulevard from our church.)
Then, wrote some for my Mississippi State messages, read the paper, had breakfast, and arrived at the office at 8:30. Staff met until 10:45 am. Seemed strange without Dionne’s (Educational minister Dionne Williams had left recently to join the staff of FBC Gulfport, MS.) ideas and input. I have come to depend on him greatly. Receiving resumes on other men for this position but no word from the Lord on any of them.
Premarital counsel with Russell Lane and Laura Keller at 10:45. Went to NOBTS for pastors conference at noon. We talked about the pastor’s off days, time management, etc. Had a po-boy for lunch. (Cost: $6) Then to East Jefferson Hospital. (Mom and Dad’s names) gave birth today to Rebekah Elizabeth, 5 lbs 15 oz. (I wish now I’d said something like “What a beautiful baby! Surely destined for great things!” But no, just that and nothing else.)
Then to Clyde Ethridge’s house for prayer before his surgery tomorrow. Then to church. Stayed til after 6 getting everything ready to leave town tomorrow—lining up retired men to stay one day each in the church office since otherwise it’s only women working in the office. Tried to get some preliminary study on Sunday’s sermons done.
This morning when I walked into the office, had a note to call Margaret (my wife) and David Parker (friend from an earlier church). His wife and our dear friend Helen died at 6 am today in Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX. Shock. We had several phone calls back and forth….. Funeral set for FBC Columbus MS Thursday at 11 am. I’m to preach it. So, we’ll go to Birmingham Wednesday afternoon, then to Nauvoo that night and back to Columbus on Thursday. And home Friday. Ugh. (Note: Living in New Orleans, if we traveled to north Mississippi for any reason, we would try to work in a quick run to see Margaret’s family in Birmingham and my folks in Nauvoo, some 60 miles north.)
Tuesday, October 19, 199
Went to cleaners and bank and Margaret and I left home around 10 am. Ate catfish at Bo-Don’s just south of Jackson MS at 1 pm. ($14.68). Drove up the lovely Natchez Trace to Starkville. 305 miles. Checked into Holiday Inn.
At the Baptist Student Union, I spoke at 6:15 on “What to believe and why: READ THE BIBLE.” I told them stories of–
–Julia, the deacon’s wife who told me, “I don’t know what the Bible says, but I know what I believe.”
–Kenneth Ray of Luling who came to Christ recently after an all-night reading of the New Testament.
–Mitch Williams, saved in 1968 after one year’s reading of the NT
–Emile Cailliett (his story is elsewhere on the website) who wanted “a book that would understand me” and tried to make one himself. But his wife brought him a Bible. Found it.
Had one man indicate he prayed to receive Christ. I sketched 15 people prior to the session and at least 40 afterwards. Ate a burger at Shoney’s ($4.62) and got into the hotel room at 9:30 pm.
Tonight on the back row (at the BSU) were a half dozen older adults. I asked students later who they were. Didn’t know. Margaret said they could be the BSU steering committee. I feared a pulpit committee because did not feel I came across as well as would have liked (especially at first). Not having planned my opening words (a big mistake!), I began, “I love coming to MSU. One reason is you don’t know me. You take Ken Watkins’ and June Scoggins’ word that I’m all right–and you don’t have a clue how many churches I’ve torn up.” What? Did I say that? Diarrhea of the mouth. I’ve never torn up a church. I left FBC Charlotte rather than do just that. Why do I say such things? Intimidated by my audience and trying to be cute, probably.
Wednesday, October 20, 1993 in Starkville
Up at 6 am. Walked til 6:45. Met Ken Watkins for breakfast at 7:45. At 9 am, we went to St Joseph Catholic where I met with a dozen student workers and a) drew each one and b) spoke on Asahel/David (2 Samuel 2) “strength/weaknesses.”
Rested in the room with Margaret for a while, then at 11:30 went to BSU center where I drew students until 12:15. Spoke on FOCUS ON JESUS. (Built on last night’s message. In trying to decide what and why to believe, 1) read the Bible and 2) focus on Jesus). My message–
Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”
Matthew 11:25-30 is my text
Verses 25-26 How to come: Humbly.
Verse 27 Three great statements the Lord Jesus makes about Himself–
–a. sovereign authority
–b. mysterious identity
–c. exclusive ministry
This is why we make so much of Jesus.
Occasionally critics say we Christians make more of Jesus than He did of Himself. Not so. Look at verses 28-30…
–a. Come unto me and rest. A moment in time.
–b. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me and I will give you rest. A way of life.
(Gave invitation. No response. But felt better about today’s message than last night.)
Sketched another 20 students. Ate a quick bite of cold lunch, drove to the Holiday Inn to get Margaret. Drove to Columbus MS to see family of our friend Helen (who died yesterday, funeral will be tomorrow). Had a bite of lunch with them, then drove to Birmingham, arriving at 5:30 pm. (I’ll skip the family notes. At 8:55, drove north to see my parents, arriving 10:15 pm. We left the next morning at 8:10 am for the funeral in Mississippi, then on to home. Long, quick trip.)
That’s all. The journal continues. Next day records details about the funeral, what was said, etc. I made a photo copy and sent to one of Helen’s daughters because I knew it would bless her, all these years later.
Pastors will read this and think, “Hey, that’s kind of how I spend my days–visiting hospitals, going to meetings, dealing with people in crisis.” Yep. It’s all the same. God bless all our pastors.