sunday, june 10th, 2007, 4:40 p.m.
Sanity returned to Trevor Kenny slowly. For more than an hour the two men sat on the lawn, Roo’s strong arm around Tree’s quivering body, Shep at their feet recuperating from the excitement. Over and over Tree said, “Don’t leave me, man!” and over and over Roo assured him, “I’m not going anywhere, friend.” Tree used words like hideous and freaky and weird and hairy and putrid to describe the creatures he seen after passing from life to death. Or was it near-death? Or simply hallucinations? Never had Roo seen a man so overcome by dread and repulsion.
“Can you walk?”
“If you walk with me. Don’t leave me, man!”
“I’m not going anywhere, friend.”
And so they walked, up the road, down the road.
“You seem to be okay.”
“Yeah, I’m okay. Don’t leave me, man!”
“I’m not going anywhere, friend.”
“I could use a beer.”
“Whatever you say, man.”
“Should I take you to a hospital? Your doctor?”
“No hospital, man! No doctor! I feel like a fool.”
Roo’s cell chimed in his pocket. “Son! I can hardly hear you. Poor reception.”
“Tell Mom I got the message.”
“I said, tell…… Mom…… I…… got…… the message!”
“Yes, John, that is very kind of you.”
“I said kind!
“Love you too, John. Sorry about the game.”
“I said, I’m…… sorry…… you…… lost…… the game!”
“Yes, son. I’ll be home later.”
Tree was suddenly responsive. “You missed the game!”
“I came looking for you. My wife said you were in trouble, so I came looking.”
“But you missed the big game! You’re out of the playoffs!”
Roo could tell the distraction was bringing coherence back quickly, and he kept up the conversation. “Did you know the umpire called the game at the end of the eighth?”
“Yeah, Mac told me. Would you believe it? – he called me on my cell when I was in the grave just before I…… you know. He was some disappointed.”
“We lost by one run.”
“Yeah, they changed pitchers twice in the eighth inning just to kill time. That Pirates coach is a real jerk. Still, you would have won if you were there.”
“But you’re alive. That’s what matters.”
“But how did your wife, what’s her name…… ?”
“How did Jeni know?”
“God told her.”
“But why would God tell her I was in trouble. We are bitter enemies.”
“Not so, my friend. The Lord has always loved you.”
“I can’t get hold of such a thing.”
“Do you want to?”
“Want to what?”
“Do you want to know if God loves you?”
“Well, yeah. If it’s true!”
“If you want the truth, God will give you the truth.”
“I want the truth, whatever it is!”
“Then ask God for it.”
Tree had no resistance left, not a smidgen. “God, give me the truth! Now!” Tree looked around for truth to drop out of the sky, not at all sure what it looked or felt like. “Don’t see it. Don’t feel it.”
“It will come. Now let’s make plans.”
“Don’t leave me, man!”
“I’m not going anywhere, friend.”
“But you have to go home sometime.”
“True. And you’re coming with me.”
“To our ranch in Bryden Falls.”
“You sure? I mean, I can’t say no because I couldn’t stand being alone, but I don’t want to be a drag.”
“Sally and the kids are on the way to the ranch.”
“No!!” Tree was totally disbelieving. “You’re wrong, man! They’re heading east right now!”
“Jeni went after them. They are all on the way home.”
“Then I can’t go! I swore I will never hurt them again!”
“God wants to restore your family.”
“Can He do that?”
“Do they want me, Roo, after all I’ve done?” His voice was unusually soft, hopeful.
“Jeni gave them the choice. They want you.”
“But Sally and I are divorced!”
“They will stay in the guest house. You will have John’s bedroom in our house.”
“Where will he sleep?”
“They will arrange something.”
“His leg was really broken, wasn’t it? I mean, I seen it!”
“It was broken. How long will it take you to clean up and pack?”
“Less than ten. Don’t leave me, man!”
“I’m not going anywhere, friend.”
“I could use a beer.”
“Okay, man. Just don’t leave me.”
“I’m not going anywhere, friend.”
Soon they were at the junction near customs, and Roo made a right-hand turn.
“Wrong way, man. Canada is to the left.”
“Yes. But truth is to the right, in River’s Bend.”
“You’re joking, right? I’ve lived there most of my life and I hadn’t come across it.”
Twenty minutes later they were parked at a tired-looking shopping mall near a movie theater, Play It Again. Listed under a neon sign was Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ.
“Want to go to a movie?” Roo pointed to a glossy advertisement.
“I heard about that movie. Brutally realistic.”
“Yes, Jenny and I have seen it. I noticed it earlier when I was driving to the ball diamond, looking for you.”
“Oh, I get it. This is the truth you said was in River’s Bend. Cute.”
“It is mostly accurate with the Bible. Now I know you have been through a lot. We don’t have to go in. Your call.”
“I did ask for truth.”
“What about the dog?”
“Shep can sleep in the back. That’s his second bed.”
“Can we get a hot dog and some popcorn? I’m starved.”
On the way to Bryden Falls after the movie they did a lot of talking, The Passion having filled Tree with questions. As they drove home there was a wondrous display of thundering and lightning, bringing both a surreal backdrop for their spiritual discussion and an added risk of forest fires.
“But it’s not right! They kept beating on Him! How could the people let that happen? He didn’t do nothing wrong! Healing people and being nice isn’t a crime! I just about walked out of there! Those idiots! I mean, it was plain wrong!”
“I know it’s hard to comprehend, but you and I and everyone else crucified Christ!”
“No way, man! That happened a couple of thousands of years ago!”
“Let me explain.” Roo shared the gospel message, starting with the sin of Adam, God’s promise of a coming Savior to redeem mankind from the curse of sin, the role of satan intent on keeping men blind to the reality of the crucified Christ, the consequences of denying Christ, the many blessings attached to the person surrendering his life to the lordship of Christ, the eternal home of both the foolish who reject Christ and the wise who embrace Him. Tree listened intently.
It was early Sunday morning when the plumber’s van approached the Tanner Ranch sign, and Roo came to a stop.
“My friend, please hear me.”
“I’m listening, man.”
“This is our home. You are a welcomed guest. Jeni and I believe God would have you stay with us for one year. I will be close by. I will run my plumbing business from my home office. Only occasionally will I leave.
“I suggest you stay on the ranch for the entire year, leaving the property for emergencies only. Consider our home a refuge from the world you are used to, a place of restoration for you and your family.
“Adjustment may not be easy. For an entire year you will not drink alcohol, not a drop. You will come to see what a curse it has been. We live a different lifestyle than what you are accustomed to. I trust you will respect that lifestyle.
“One year from today you will drive under this sign in the other direction to make your own way once again. I predict by then your relationship with your wife and children will be healed, and you will leave together a strong family.”
“Thanks, man. This is all hard to believe. Is my family really here?”
“They are here, my friend. I suppose they are sleeping soundly. They have had a very long day.”
“But how will I pay my way? I’m no leech, man!”
“There is much work to do, but I don’t want you working for more than a couple of hours in a day. I want you to rest, go for walks, evaluate your life, plan your future.”
“Got it! But I will work enough to pay my keep. And my family’s.”
“I think they will cover themselves. The best thing you can do for your family is to become whole and healed.”
“Got it.” And then, “But please don’t tell Mac about this. Let me tell him. Maybe in a couple of days.” And then, “I’m scared, man.”
“You know, facing my family again after just saying good-bye. And meeting your family.”
“It will be okay. Let’s go home!” And with that Roo drove up the road to the stately log house.
monday, june 11th, 2007, 1:30 a.m.
The bed was comfortable, the surroundings peaceful, but Trevor Kenny couldn’t sleep. It had been a long day. This was the second night sleep refused to come, the previous he was kept awake by thoughts of the upcoming departure of his family and his plans of suicide.
And then the dreaded Sunday morning arrived, and he was in a zone of blurred unreality on his way to their meeting spot in the park. Reality cruelly swept away unreality when embracing his beloved ones for the final time, and his insides were cut into pieces. He could still see the gray family van in the rear view mirror, side door open awaiting Brandon standing alone and motionless, hanging on to his fishing shirt. Though his family was at this moment but a short stone’s throw away, the pain of the good-bye was still burning.
And then he was in the grave of his own making, pistol in hand. He speculated the jacket over his head together with the picture frame created a small pocket of air that kept him alive an extra few minutes. He exhaled, as planned, before pulling the trigger, but instinctively filled his lungs at the last second. He remembered the sound of the gun, in that enclosure a loud blast, and then his inability to move even slightly under the crushing, smothering weight upon every inch of his body.
And then the demons came – filthy, laughing, ugly – to take him away to a world he knew would be as hideous as its ambassadors, never to return. Flashbacks of war were nothing to compare to the dark side of death, a creepy blend of hopelessness and insanity and remorse.
And then Reuben Tanner’s face! – sweaty, dirty, anxious, but oh, so beautiful! Two worlds, one no less real than the other, were tugging at him, one to offer another chance, the other frantic to clinch his eternity. He fought unconsciousness with all his power, and when thoroughly fatigued fought even harder, energized by absolute desperation.
And then he was watching Jesus on a large screen, the one claiming to be the Son of God, the God he hated so many years. Jesus had won his heart. He was brave and decent and giving. But being good didn’t help Him one little bit! God watched – just watched! – His Son tortured in the cruelest manner. He could have done something! He could have rescued Jesus! It just wasn’t fair! The movie was, in part, the truth recently prayed for, a smarting truth, a truth threatening the might of ignorance.
And then the ride home in the thunder and lightning, and Reuben further explaining the gospel message of the movie. God wasn’t being cruel, he was being loving! This had been planned for thousands of years.Finally the light went on: He sent Jesus to die for me and Sally and Kay-Lyn and Brandon, the only One able to pay for our sins. The discovery that God was nice was disconcerting.
Tree refused to let the darkness in by turning off the light though he was surrounded by gestures of love. The most obvious love-token was John’s bed and bedroom complete with an en suite bathroom, an addition John had built for himself, by himself, Roo had said. For an entire year John was giving up his room! There were vases of flowers and notes of welcome from each of the children. There were balloons hanging from the ceiling, a teddy bear on the pillow, a glass of water beside the bed, a Jesus-Loves-You sticker on the dresser mirror.
In a few hours he would face his family at the breakfast table. Would he simply sit down without a word, perhaps a, Good morning, everyone? Or would he take his family in his huge arms and tell them how sorry he was, and how things would be different from now on?
But would it really be different? Could he really change the way he was? He tried before, told them many times, Things will be different from now on, and failed miserably. What makes me think I can change now?
monday, june 11th, 2007, 1:50 a.m
After kissing his sleeping Jeni on the cheek to let her know he was safely home Roo retreated to his office. His long day wasn’t over yet. He had serious cares to be cast at the feet of Jesus. Because of his absence the Challengers missed the playoffs…… again.
Because of his preaching there probably would be no more Challengers, not ever. And that’s not all.
He and Jeni had always protected their children from unhealthy influences, and provided an environment ideal for raising kids. His children were stable, able, and mature. But now he had brought worldly influences into their refuge. He was the head of the family under Christ; had he placed the family he was responsible to protect in jeopardy?
The fact is, Roo fearfully reasoned, Sally has rejected Christ, their Christ, all of her life. True, she didn’t really understand, but that was only because her life was spent resisting the wooing of the Spirit at work in the hearts of everyone. And Sally’s children? If they were typical, they had fed on violence and betrayal and lust from television and electronic games most days of their lives. Whose children would influence whose? If the influence were mutual his kids would still be damaged.
And Tree. He had committed his home to Tree for one year. One full year Tree would sit at their table, connect with his children, be influential. Sure, Tree has been humbled, completely so, but how long before the swagger, the arrogance, the cynicism would return? Would the chaos of his broken life raze the peace of their home? Would the man who brought grief to his own family for many years now bring grief to the Tanner family? Would his children one day have to endure the sight of Mr. Kenny suffering through flashbacks?
Roo had stayed home from work since Jeni suggested it, but what was to be very temporary must now be extended to a year; no way was he going to leave the ranch unattended more than an occasional few hours. Long ago Roo stopped working Fridays so he could pursue the Lord more fully. Soon that wasn’t enough to satisfy his increasing hunger for more of Jesus, so in faith he added a fourth day, Monday, to his off days. Yes, the Lord always provided. The ranch produced some income through boarding horses and selling beef and hay, and the garden increased in size every year making them less dependent on the grocery store, while fall and winter hunting always kept their freezers supplied. But now he must make serious adjustments to run his business entirely from home, leaning more on his hired help to give estimates and make appointments. Will it work?
Roo would never have invited a family to live with them had he not the conviction this was a commission from the Lord. But he had been wrong before. Because of his defective discernment a church had been split in two, perhaps beyond recovery.
Roo’s thoughts were interrupted by a light tapping at the doorway.
“Roo. Sorry to bother you, man. I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been thinking lots …… thinking I should be dead …… I came so close, but God gave me another chance, and I don’t want to blow it, you know what I mean?”
Roo said nothing.
“So I was thinking, I could die tomorrow and I know where I would go, you know what I mean? Man, that was a scary place!…… Maybe there’s a better way…… for me and my family…… Maybe God isn’t so bad after all….. And I was thinking …… maybe, you know …… ”
Roo said nothing.
“Well, maybe I could live for…… maybe I could have…… you know…… JESUS!!”
And at the name of Jesus the big man broke down in uncontrollable sobs, and tears that refused to come since a teen flowed freely onto his bushy walrus mustache.
tuesday, june 12th, 2007, 1:15 p.m.
Vivian was packing her husband’s suitcase when she got the call.
“The Maclin residence.”
“No, I’m sorry, he is not here. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Yes, officer. I expect him home shortly. He has to be at the airport in River’s Bend in two hours.”
“Yes, I am his wife.”
“He will return Wednesday afternoon.”
“An important message?”
“Are you sure?”
“Are they still searching for the body?”
“Yes, Trevor Kenny is Terry’s closest friend.”
“Yes, he is the pastor of our church.”
“Yes, I am sure he would want to direct the memorial.”
“Friday? Do you know the time and location?”
“Is there a number he could reach you?”
“You can expect to hear from him soon to confirm.”
tuesday, june 12th, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
The first thing Mac did when entering his hotel room was unplug the idiot box. How tempting to just veg on a movie or watch a couple of his favorite sitcoms to numb the anxiety and pain.
Mac was so shaken after Vivian told him about Tree’s drowning he almost canceled his flight. Funny, as horrible the news was, he was distracted by her genuine compassion, and he wished the return of the young lady he had married, so considerate, so giving, so earnest, so real.
The fishing/hunting lodge had been evacuated, Vivian related the state troopers report, a precaution against nearby forest fires; otherwise Tree’s black F150, now the only vehicle in the parking area, would never had been noticed. A forest warden went looking for Tree to convey the evacuation order only to find his rod and jacket on a precarious slope. All evidence pointed to death by drowning. The fact his body was not yet found in the raging river was to be expected; perhaps one day it would be spotted in a down-river lake. The trooper got Mac’s name from one of the Grizzlies, and wanted to know if he would perform a memorial service. No one knew how to get in touch with Sally, probably still on her way to some unknown city in the east. Perhaps it’s best that way.
For now Mac must stay focused on business at hand. He must go through with this, his appointment with Mr. Big, his future and that of his family was at stake. Grieving could wait until after his 10:00 a.m. appointment. He must not show fear during the meeting, he cautioned himself; fear is not becoming of an assistant superintendent. And yet he must reveal appropriate humility. He must be as the errant son appealing to father for forgiveness. He would not mention the circumstances by which Tanner did not, and would never, preach the second half of his message, but simply state it wasn’t going to happen. He will invite Brother Johnston to be the main speaker at the weekend meetings he intended to hold at the Center – everyone loves an invite to preach – and ask his advice on how to program the meetings – everyone likes to be consulted. This should be a piece of cake.
Unpacking his suitcase he noticed an envelope he didn’t put there. The happy-face told him it was his Katie. What’s this? Inside the envelope was a cd, marked, My Pastor-Daddy. And a portable player. My precious baby! How touching! Tomorrow he would listen to the cd. Tomorrow he would grieve for his bud. Tonight he would prepare for, and pray for, the success of tomorrow’s meeting.
wednesday, june 13th, 2007, 9:56 a.m.
The name on the nameplate read Margaret Tilton. A cookie-cutter replica of Vivian, Mac thought as he observed the secretary behind her desk, meticulous in dress and manner, her coordinating blue slacks and blouse the only warm colors in the rather dark reception room. Hmmm. Maybe Vivian plus two or three years, he guessed. Dutiful and competent, his first impression. Will Vivian one day be seated in her chair?
Superintendent Johnston’s secretary was warm and apologetic, yet maintained her poise. “I am sorry, Brother Maclin. Brother Johnston is still out of town. He was expected back early this morning but he phoned to say there was a flight cancellation, apparently a problem was discovered in the navigational controls. He expects to fly in this afternoon but will not be able to meet with you until tomorrow morning.”
What could Mac say? “Those things happen.”
“Had I known where you were staying I would have tried to reach you by phone.”
“Thank you for your consideration.” Mac did his best to respond to her professionalism with professionalism, sufficiently warm and no more.
“Brother Johnston asked me to extend his sincere apologies, and to tell you he is looking forward to seeing you. Also, he said to tell you the denomination would cover your added expenses.”
“What would be a good time in the morning?”
“How about the same time, 10 a.m.?”
“I’ll be here.”
Back in his room Mac went over the secretary’s words. Hmmm. Sincere apologies. Looking forward to seeing you. Positive indications of a sympathetic superintendent, for sure. Best of all was the gesture of paying the extra expenses of another day in a very expensive city. Mac was much encouraged, even cheerful, until……
Until he thought of his bud, his body sunken or floating somewhere in a river or lake. And where was his spirit? Try as he might, he could not think of Tree making a last minute decision for Christ. Mac was certain: Tree was in hell.
Hell. Mac had always had a problem with hell. Could it really, really be true? Is it really a place of eternal anguish? Or is it simply the absence of love, as some would say? Mac concluded since the world he could see was a hell to multitudes, the real hell he couldn’t see, the hell Christ came to rescue us from, must be a hellish place indeed. Whatever hell is, Tree was there, and he would be there forever.
And Mac blamed himself. He called Tree his best friend yet rarely had time for him. And though he always intended to pray for him, he seldom did. Oh, if I just had one more chance, I would grab that guy by the throat and insist he become a Christian!
Click! Mac pushed play on the portable cd player to escape his anguish.
“Hi Daddy, this is your Pigtails. I know you wanted to talk at Mario’s, but that didn’t happen. I think you would like to know where your little girl is at. Am I right?
“Before telling you where I am, I must tell you where I was, not very long ago. Though I smiled and bounced and kidded a lot, your little girl was not a happy teen. You see, I had lost something very dear to me. And funny, I didn’t realize I lost it. It was gone, but I didn’t know it was gone, though the loss caused me much sorrow.
“And then I found it! Well, not it, but Him. I found Christ! Or should I say, re-found Christ? Thanks to Mr. Tanner, that is, thanks to Mr. Tanner’s courage and obedience, I realized what was missing in my life. It was Jesus!
“Don’t you remember, Daddy, how happy I used to be? I mean real happiness, not the imitation happiness I put on when around people. How did I lose it, Pastor Daddy?
“So that’s where your Pigtails is at, with Jesus. And that’s where I will stay the rest of my life. No matter what the cost, I will follow the One who forgave my selfishness and manipulation.
“And I was wondering, Daddy, what was it like before? – you know, when you and Mom first moved to Bryden Falls, when you were not much older than me and Kyle. So I went to the tape collection in the rec room and started listening to my preacher-daddy of years ago, before I was old enough to remember. I put together a compilation of excerpts of some of your sermons. Are you ready for this?”
Click! Katie was the sunshine of his life. To have the happy one in the family, in the congregation, speak of her sadness was most disheartening, to be added to the sorrow of losing his only friend.
After a few minutes of painful assimilation, Click! Though the cd was somewhat garbled, Mac could recognize his own voice, a younger, more fiery voice.
“People, we must never lose sight of Christ! He must be the Alpha and the Omega in our lives, our passion and our purpose, our object of worship ……”
“Let us never slip from relationship to religion, as so many before us. Let us ever be mindful of the enemy of our souls who would distract us from our true purpose, to know, to become intimately acquainted with, Jesus Christ our Lord …… ”
“Before us all is the judgment seat of Christ where we must each give an account to Him who judges righteously. Our works must be the outflow of intimacy with the King of kings and the Lord of lords! …… ”
“We are to live our lives with Him, through Him, in Him! Never try to approach the Father except through Jesus …… ”
“When we stop gathering in the name of Jesus, when He has become a forgotten First Love, when we have fallen from relationship to a form of religion, when tears stop flowing at the mention of His lovely name, when we stop expecting Jesus to presence Himself in our midst, I say it is time to stay home! I for one refuse to play church! ……”
Click! Where did that Mac go? Mac wanted to know. And, Where did my Vivian go? He remembered his young wife, a flame for Christ, boldly approaching strangers on the street, ever ready to proclaim the Love of her life.
“Jesus told us plainly, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ Nothing means nothing! Yes, we can be active, we can maintain an appearance of healthy Christianity, but without an intimate and passionate relationship with our Sin-bearer the fruit of all our exercise will be of no value …… ”
Click! Who could be phoning now? Mac’s emotions were being tossed around, and they were about to get bounced some more.
“Hello!” he demanded.
“Is this some kind of a sick joke?”
“Tree!! Is it really you?! You’re supposed to be dead and gone to hell!”
“Well how did you know I was here? Where are you?”
“What are you doing at the Tanner ranch? I didn’t know you were friends!”
“Sally and the kids are there?! I don’t understand. They are supposed to be back east!”
“Do you mean to tell me that’s where Reuben was Sunday morning? I thought …… oh, never mind.”
“What kind of trouble were you in? I was talking to you Sunday afternoon. It sounded like you were having a great time reeling in trout.”
“What do you mean you were talking to me from your grave? Come on, Tree, make sense, will you!”
“And how did I save your life?”
“Well, I’m not so sure I understand. You say if I hadn’t phoned, you would have pulled the trigger a few minutes earlier and you would be in hell now. Were you about to shoot your brains out? Sounds messy.”
“So now you believe in hell. You wouldn’t listen to me, would you?! How many times have I told you? — there’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. But no! Tree has to find out for himself!”
“You’re darn right I’m mad! How many best friends do you think I’ve got? I love you, you big jerk!”
“No, I don’t want to hear any more news! I’m having a very rough day.”
“No!” Mac’s voice softened to a whisper.
“Tree, you wouldn’t kid old Mac, would you, bud?”
“Tree! That’s great! Welcome into the kingdom of God, my brother in Christ. Tell me about it.”
“Sally told you what?”
“I don’t remember asking Roo and Jeni to pray for you.”
“Oh, fifteen years ago. Now let me see if I’ve got this right. Reuben and Jeni Tanner have been praying for you every day for the past fifteen years? Unbelievable! You know, I do remember now. Yes, I gave them your picture and asked them to pray. But I didn’t expect them to pray for fifteen years!”
“How long will you be staying at the Tanners?”
“A year! And Sally and the kids?”
“Wow! Yes, I am sure God will put your family together.”
“Now I want you to start all over. Tell me again all that happened. Slowly now. Step by step.”
“No, pal, I won’t tell anyone about the suicide.”
“You’re right. Real dumb. Now start from the beginning.”
thursday, june 14th, 2007, 2:30 a.m.
Mac woke from a fitful sleep, the voices of many ricocheting throughout his conscience.
I know I’m just a kid but I, like, thought you might like to know that Mr. Tanner, well, he, like, helped me in my walk with Jesus, you know…… he, like, helped me in my walk with Jesus, you know…… he, like, helped me in my walk with Jesus, you know……
To me, it is out of square; it is not right. It is off plumb with the Bible and therefore my conscience. I can’t live with it. I resign from the board of elders…… I resign from the board of elders…… I resign from the board of elders……
In my opinion, my friends, most of your works are wood, hay, and straw. They will be consumed by fire…… They will be consumed by fire…… They will be consumed by fire……
I am a licensed and ordained minister of our denomination, and as such have agreed to abide by denominational bylaws and policies…… have agreed to abide by denominational bylaws and policies…… have agreed to abide by denominational bylaws and policies……
Leaders are the spokesmen, the teachers. It is hard to overstate the power of the pulpit, and since we control the pulpit we must accept the responsibility of the welfare of the assembly…… we must accept the responsibility of the welfare of the assembly…… we must accept the responsibility of the welfare of the assembly……
I’m saved, Mac! I’m a different person! I can feel it inside me! The hate and fear and loneliness, it’s all gone! I got Jesus!…… I got Jesus!…… I got Jesus!……
Christ once reigned in your heart, but you have distanced yourself from your First Love…… you have distanced yourself from your First Love…… you have distanced yourself from your First Love……
Message number seven. Hi Pastor Mac, I would sure like to talk to you face to face and have you level with me. Am I really unprepared to give an account to Christ? I attend this church because I thought we were doing so well…… I thought we were doing so well…… I thought we were doing so well……
I know, Pastor. I guess everybody thought I was a Christian. But I always knew something was missing, you know? Like, I was empty inside…… Like, I was empty inside…… Like, I was empty inside……
The only time we can play the Pirates is Sunday morning. That means canceling the service. So it’s your call, pal…… it’s your call, pal…… it’s your call, pal……
It is imperative that you turn back to Christ…… turn back to Christ…… turn back to Christ……
Don’t you remember, Daddy, how happy I used to be? I mean real happiness, not the imitation happiness I put on when around others. How did I lose it, Pastor Daddy?…… How did I lose it, Pastor Daddy?…… How did I lose it, Pastor Daddy?……
Without an intimate and passionate relationship with our Sin-bearer the fruit of all our exercise will be of no value…… the fruit of all our exercise will be of no value…… the fruit of all our exercise will be of no value……
Tossing and turning wouldn’t quiet the thoughts. After pressing the rewind button he listened again to his Pigtails. “Before telling you where I am, I must tell you where I was, not very long ago. Though I smiled and bounced and kidded a lot, your little girl was not a happy teen. You see, I had lost something very dear to me. And funny, I didn’t realize I lost it. It was gone but I didn’t know it was gone, though the loss caused me much sorrow.”
How could it be? Mac marveled. How could someone become distanced from Christ and not know it? And then he thought of Vivian. Did she lose it, too? After comparing the old Vivian and the new Vivian, Yes, he was forced to conclude, she lost it too. And then he marveled at himself, how over all these years he couldn’t see what was now so obvious.
And Kyle? Yes, Kyle as well. This was getting excruciating.
And the congregation? One by one he considered them. He couldn’t understand how he could love so many so dearly, but he did. And he had to admit that which would be difficult for any shepherd to admit: most under his watch had lost their fervor for Christ.
But why? How could it have happened?
And then he asked himself, And me?