Sept. 10, 1990: I got my first speeding ticket in Missouri. Sadly, I have gotten two since. But not lately! Maybe I’ve reformed. But, back to that day – my first day in my new home, Missouri.
My little family and I were driving down from Iowa past the fine Missouri farmland on U.S. Highway 65 that fateful Monday. Our last day at the church I pastored was the day before. We had finished the lunch in our honor, opened the going-away gifts, and said our goodbyes. We went by the house for the last time. The “Maplewood Movers and Breakers” had taken everything away.
Wes went inside and walked around, and soon the memories were flooding back; and then the tears. The really-and-truly-and-I’m-not-making-it-up tasteful, lime-green shag carpet in the front room, the oldest house in town, built in 1873, on the highest point in town, the first home we “owned;” well, you know what I mean. And, the front porch from which we watched our first graders walk off to school, just down the block on the quiet street lined with maples.
I waited outside with the kids while Wes was alone in the empty house full of memories. Next I heard Wes’ anguished wailing. We had just buried our best-pet-ever – Eustace, a black and white “hybrid.” (With a name like that, everyone pronounced it “Useless,” and we tried to laugh like we’d never heard that one before!) And then she came out, got in the car, and off we drove. I gazed at relief in the rear-view mirror, and I saw a large formation of butterflies out the windshield. (Isn’t that what every pastor sees at the end of one and the beginning of another?)
What would the future hold? This would be my third church. Had I finally gotten the hang of it? I had been in two farm communities before – Oklahoma and Iowa. How would this be different? What are Missourians like, after all?
That Monday we were to arrive in Sedalia at the house we were renting. A crew from Maplewood Church was going to be there to help unload. Somewhere north of Marshall I started panicking. I wasn’t going to get there on time! And the guy in front of me was just creeping along in an old 1950s Chevy pickup. And just when I started to pass, he sped up. And so I sped up. And he sped up, and … then the lights came on, and I slowed down, and, I wish it had just been a warning.
Twenty-five years ago. And we have been here 25 years now.
My first Sunday at the church was on Maplewood’s 25th anniversary as a church, and now, on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19 and 20, we celebrate our 50th anniversary.
I can’t begin to list all the changes. I think of that clever scene in the movie “Notting Hill.” Hugh Grant is walking down the block and the seasons change – all four seasons and one year passes in the steps of one block. And now that times 25!
How brief is life!
The Psalmist noted in Psalm 39 (ESV) … “:4 O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! :5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! … :6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! :7 And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
The other day I saw a maple tree turning red. My hope is in the Lord!