friday, january 21st, 1994, 3:00 p.m.
“Jesus be praised!” Terry Maclin recognized Roo’s horn announcing the arrival of the awaited cargo. Through the window he could see Reuben’s Plumbing van backing toward the front entrance of the just-completed church. He opened both doors and emerged in the late winter afternoon, donning his heavy work jacket. He had waited eight months for this moment.
“Roo!” the pastor yelled over the sound of the motor and tires crunching the fresh January snow.
“Pastor Mac,” Reuben returned the greeting from the open van window, not losing his concentration backing up. Pastor Maclin had years before been altered to Pastor Mac. Reuben Tanner had been simplified to Roo. Nicknames are common here at ‘the Center’, Bryden Falls Community Christian Center. Years of familiarity will do that. And so will baseball.
The heavy pulpit slid from the van with ease onto the cart wagon Roo borrowed from one of his suppliers, and soon the aged treasure was escorted on its belly through the doors by pastor and plumber, down the newly carpeted aisle to its awaiting place in the center of the elevated stage. It was big, much larger than one would expect for a church that housed a maximum 500 people, and heavy, reinforced with steel, sides and front paneled in oak, the base filled with lead for stability, a large rounded and tilted slab of oak topping the proud and stately structure. But the two were strong and able, and soon the pulpit was where it belonged, the base sitting perfectly into a square left by the carpet installers.
“It fits!” Roo was surprised how everything came together in this building project undertaken mostly by amateurs. He had been in construction long enough to know even those projects done by journeyman trades were susceptible to miscues. Projects by the inexperienced were usually an unbroken series of calamities start to finish.
Mac was less surprised. This building project had been bathed in prayer since the sod turning ceremony at which time he challenged the women’s prayer group, headed by his Vivian, to cover this project in prayer until the pulpit was set in place, signifying completion.
Sunday, march 14th, 1993, 3:30 p.m.
Ladies. Assistant Superintendent Martin Johnston of head office related to me just how distressing a building project of this size can be to a congregation, and suggested we approach this cautiously. I extend this warning to you today.
But first, let me recap how we got to where we now are, on the verge of a major building project.
As most of you know, Bryden Falls Community Christian Center had its beginning in our living room in 1989 when Vivian and I, newlyweds and graduates of Norwest Seminary, began a neighborhood Bible study. By God’s favor we steadily grew in number until squeezed out of our home. In 1990 we, that is, the congregation we had become, rented the vacant small country schoolhouse we are now in. Due to favorable articles in national and international magazines, many have discovered Bryden Falls to be an excellent mid-size town to raise a family or spend retirement years. The Center grew at even a faster pace than our town. The school board needs its school back, and last year we were forced to make a decision.
The options facing your church board were to either lease or purchase a suitable commercial building, or have a church built. After much scanning of real estate possibilities and exhaustive discussions, the board of elders approached the congregation with a recommendation to build. The congregation voted 80 percent in favor of that recommendation. The board then had preliminary plans drawn up for a church complex that included a sanctuary accommodating 300 people, a pastoral office, a kitchen, rooms for prayer and Bible study and board meetings, and a nursery. They also made an offer on a three-acre lot next to Bryden Falls Baseball Park, subject to the approval of the congregation. This approval was attained.
Although the cost of the proposed building and land was within our means, I realized the building would probably only be suitable for a few years if we continue to grow as we have, at which time we would be facing another disruptive building project. I proposed that we, the congregation, do most of the building ourselves so that we could have a larger complex at the same cost. A contractor would build the shell of the building, and we would take over from there. This proposal prompted much apprehensive discussion, understandably, and it was accepted on the condition that I accept the responsibility of overseeing the project. To this I agreed.
Ladies, I need your help.
Although I cannot deny being gifted with an organizational skill, I have scant construction experience. I believe the success or failure of this project, our project, will be determined by the quality of undergirding prayer. Soon our contractor will pour the footings, and six weeks later the roofing will be installed, and the bulk of the project will be ours to finish. I anticipate eight months later the pulpit will be installed, the very last detail, signaling the end of our building project. That will be January, next year. Between these times there will be sore muscles, some bruises, frayed nerves, late night meetings, various complaints, misunderstandings and miscommunication. The one who comes “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” will be vigilant for inroads to disrupt the unity we have nurtured over the years, thus thwarting God’s plan for the Center.
Most in the congregation already live full lives; where will the extra needed energy come from? Many of us are white collars; where will the required skills come from? Where will the wisdom come from? And protection from injury? They will come from God. And they will come through the faith of His intercessors.
This is what I propose. There will never be less than five ladies on any given day carrying the responsibility of the building project, sustaining through prayer every detail of construction of which there will be dozens. Five ladies will bear the responsibility for one month, and then five others will pick up the rotation. Each group will be fully informed of the happenings, the needs, potential problems. I will communicate these to Vivian regularly, and she will in turn communicate to the group of five. And anything you want to relay to me – any suggestions or questions – will be communicated to me through Vivian.
Ladies, I invite you, I challenge you. Will you embrace the responsibility of this building project?
friday, january 21st, 1994, 5:15 p.m.
The plumber removed the cover in the floor at the base of the pulpit revealing a large junction box containing marked wires, jacks and receptacles. He connected the microphone to one of the jacks. The sound system worked fine. Next, he connected the two fluorescent lights, concealed by an oak valance near the bottom of the pulpit, to shine upward and dramatically light the underside of the slanted oak top. A-okay. And the reading light worked. He connected the switch inside the pulpit that was to control two of the overhead ceiling spotlights. Everything worked great. One more thing to do.
Terry – Mac – had brought a bottle of furniture polish and a handful of rags. Neither were chatterers, and with young strong arms they worked the polish into the oak without disturbing the quiet of the church, Terry Maclin on one side of the proud pulpit, Reuben Tanner on the other. It was fitting the pastor and the plumber got to do this final touch, not only on the pulpit, but the entire undertaking, for much more than anyone else they poured their hearts and energy and skills into the building project. It was a sweet moment. Life has too many disappointments, expectations seldom materialize, plans go awry. But this was a triumph. The entire building project was complete, on schedule, below budget. And the congregation was not only intact, but more strongly bonded.
Neither noticed the old man silent and still in the shadows of the foyer, a pleasant oddity, a whisper of a man, an enigma who made occasional visits to the Center and elsewhere, always arriving late for the service and leaving early, always a kindly smile, always a noble dignity. Some said he was prophetic, others thought him a maverick. Savor the moment, Mac and Roo!, he silently phrophesied, Bask in the triumph! For life will deal you ample afflictions to humble your souls. One day a tempest will visit your assembly. Ferocious and destructive, it will buffet you, test your faith, jeopardize the congregation you love. Brother will turn on brother, sister against sister.
Much water will pass under the bridge, seasons will tumble over each other, there will be a mingling of baptisms and weddings and funerals and baby dedications. The carpet you stand on will be twice replaced. And then it will come. As a thief in the night. Dark and nasty.
Mac twisted the cap back on the bottle of polish, Roo gathered the rags into a plastic bag, together they steered the cart to the van. Fully satisfied, they shook hands and embraced, January snow flaking their black baseball caps.
“Love you, Roo.”
“Love you, Pastor Mac.”
saturday, april 7th, 2007, 10:00 a.m.
“Did you remember the 11:30 oil change this morning?” Vivian Maclin asked her husband.
“The luncheon with Trevor Kenny?”
“Your first baseball practice at 2:30?”
“Looking forward to it.”
Vivian Maclin shouldered her share plus, plus, of home and church. Terry had learned her ability to keep the machinery running surpassed his, and over the years deferred to her management, giving him coveted time for reflection and fun.
“Reuben Tanner phoned for an appointment.”
“Roo hasn’t made an appointment for years.”
“I fitted him in Monday, 1:00 pm.”
“Do you want me to cancel the oil change?”
“Any hint as to why he wanted to see me?”
“No. Baseball, perhaps?”
“No, I’m sure not that.”
“His last appointment didn’t go well. That was at least three years ago. That was the last time we spoke of spiritual matters.”
“What time is your lunch with Trevor Kenny?”
“Twelve at The Coffee House.”
“Twelve-thirty at The Coffee House,” Vivian corrected.
“You haven’t forgotten the twins birthday supper at 5:30. I am having it early so you will still have time to prep for tomorrow. The men working on the floor in the sanctuary should be finished late afternoon so the sanctuary will be all yours this evening.”
“Eighteen years old. Amazing. Makes me feel middle-aged.” It saddened Mac that the image of successful, young pastor was receding with his hairline. “I didn’t have these grey hairs at their last birthday.” Hair coloring is a great invention, he reflected. “Who is going to be there?”
“Kyle and Katie both decided to invite the band for supper, and everyone will be invited to the birthday party tomorrow after the service.” It was much easier for Vivian to hide her grey than the detested weight that long ago transformed the slender into thick.
“Then John Tanner will be there. Reuben raised a fine boy.”
“Reuben and Jenni,” Vivian corrected again. “All five children seem to be doing well. John celebrated his eighteenth a few months ago. Kyle and John have been close since childhood.”
“And Katie?” Nothing would make Mac happier than to have John for a son-in-law one day, a thought he would never express to anyone, not even his wife.
“What is it exactly that Pastor Mac is asking?”
“Shall I cancel the oil change?”
“I’m going home to prepare the birthday supper. Don’t be late.”
“Not a chance.”
Alone now, Mac took his eyes off the monitor where he had been perusing past sermons on the Holy Spirit in preparation for tomorrow’s message, placed both feet on his desk, intending to do some serious Saturday morning musing while sipping Vivian’s coffee. Excellent coffee. She does everything right.
Vivian was responsible for this spacious office. The first thing Mac and Roo had done after the building contractor had left, fourteen years ago, was mark out all the rooms on the concrete floor with red chalk, including doors and windows, and invited everyone in the congregation to inspect and suggest improvements. Vivian insisted they replace the wall separating the pastoral office and the boardroom with folding doors. Brilliant. The boardroom would mostly be wasted space except for a few hours every week; this way Mac’s office more than doubled in size. Mac was a pacer, and pushing the long table against the wall gave him plenty of pacing space. He could use the table for sorting papers, eating lunch, whatever. How claustrophobic this office would be without Vivian’s insight, he mused. She also insisted on larger windows to bring the outside in, and a wider, higher door to emphasize the office and the husband who occupied. It was she who decorated the office, arranged the furniture, hung pictures and Mac’s diplomas and license, chose the lighting. Smartly she color coordinated office and boardroom.
Mac walked over to one of three boardroom windows, a favorite staring-out spot overlooking Bryden Falls Baseball Field. Another season about to begin. Sixth year in the American league. Last place of eight teams every year except last year. Last year number five. We made them nervous. This year the playoffs, one of the top four.
The men’s team practiced throughout the winter in a school gym, throwing the ball, picking up grounders, hitting wuffle balls off a tee, rehearsing plays. Mac was a steely pitcher and a skilled coach. A coach must communicate, chatter constantly, teach and then repeat again and again, be enthused and energetic, exude strength and confidence. Over and over he taught his men:
Baseball is a mathematical science to be approached with a mathematical mindset. How far should a runner lean off first base if he intends to steal second? Calculate the pitcher’s pickoff throw to first base, his speed and likely accuracy. How fast can you make it to second? Is the pitcher due to throw a fastball or a curve or a change-up? You don’t want to steal on a fastball. Does the catcher have a good arm or mediocre? If mediocre, you can play it safe by staying closer to first. If it’s a hot day, his throw will be faster because his arm will be looser, so lean off first a bit further. How far into the season? — the risk increases as the season progresses because their efficiency goes up.
Think. Calculate. Concentrate. Have a winning attitude. Be a warrior.
Fitness is more important in baseball than most think. It’s not a lazy man’s sport. You must be as alert in the ninth inning as the first. Most mistakes happen in the later innings simply because weariness sets in. Get on the treadmill. All winter. Pair up and be accountable to each other.
You have made a decision to join a team. A team. You not only play with each other but for each other. We have set a goal of excellence at the Center. What we do we do well, as unto the Lord.
Mac was looking forward to seeing his marine buddy, Trevor Kenny. Trevor the Tree, the neighborhood kids had called him. Only on a basketball team would his height go unnoticed. In the marines he was Tree Kenny. Life was mean to Tree and since it was hard to be mad at life he was mad at God. He would have nothing to do with Mac’s Christ. But Mac loved him dearly, having shared the nightmare of combat, and was not ashamed to tell him so.
And then his thoughts bounced in another direction. Why does Roo want to see me? What’s so important that a phone call wouldn’t do? We will be seeing each other at practice, why not grab me then? It has been a long time since Roo had made an appointment. Three years ago? Mac tried to recall. No, more like five. Roo was nervous that day. A pastor’s office can do that. The many shelves of hardcover books were directly in Roo’s view as they sat across the rich mahogany desk from each other. Vivian arranged them that way. Mac read less then half of them, and probably would never open the rest. Were they simply part of the décor? Or intended to make an impression? And the framed diplomas? To add leverage?
Mac never challenged his wife. Although Vivian worked without financial compensation, at least not directly – Mac had no doubt his generous wage reflected Vivian’s labors – she did not come without price. She, too, had gained much leverage. Undoubtedly she was the second most influential person at the Center, even more than Phil Ferguson the assistant pastor, certainly far ahead of any on the board of elders.
And there was his suit and tie. It was expected of Mac to give proper respect to his office, his position of shepherd of the sheep. But he knew a suit can be imposing over those dressed casual. That’s why a car salesman wears a suit. It gives him leverage.
Mac felt affronted by Roo’s questions five years previous: Why does the Bible not seem to harmonize with the way we do things at the Center?……with the way most evangelical churches perform church functions?……where can I find biblical examples, or least some hint, of church denominations?……why can’t everyone decide for him/herself to tithe or not tithe?……it doesn’t seem right this should be a requirement for membership……
Mac had heard enough, and cut him off. “My friend, listen to me. I represent our denomination. I do not set policy. I have confidence in those to whom I am accountable. I trust in the judgment of others more knowledgeable in Scripture than I.
“If we debated every policy and practice of the Center we would get bogged down in nonessentials. I for one believe we are called to do good works, not to build a perfect church. We both know that’s an impossibility. If we become focussed on ourselves, if we become overly introspective, we will be ineffective in our community we are trying to influence for God.
“We must be sensitive to the unity we have fostered at the Center over the years. Congregational unity is a delicate thing, easily disrupted. We should ask ourselves if making what we think would be improvements is worth the risk.”
Perhaps I blew it, Mac thought. Should honest inquiry be suppressed? I closed the door to open communication with someone who has applied himself so faithfully to the growth of this church. And yet Mac was well aware of several churches in the denomination now anguishing in division. Ever the faithful shepherd, he would do whatever necessary to protect his church from discontented, questioning laymen.
Eleven o’clock. Oil change, and then meet up with Tree.
monday, january 12th, 1990, 9:15 a.m.
Jeni Tanner loved her new log house set on a hillside in the middle of their twenty acres parcel of mostly treed land. Washing breakfast dishes at the sink she could see through the large window much of the city of Bryden Falls nestled in the valley bottom far below. And she could make out the path of the river that hurriedly meandered throughout its population racing to the falls just outside of town where it fell through fifty feet of air, crashing to the rocks below, in the summer a tourist fascination. The brownish log walls and the tamarack crackling in the enormous stone fireplace that took up an entire living room wall made the house snugly warm, but would have been overly dark, even with the large windows, were it not for the half-dozen ceiling skylights letting in the outside brightness. It’s been two years now, Jeni reflected, since she and Reuben left the north country.
With the completion of Reuben’s four-year plumbing apprenticeship they were free to start a new life in the locality of their choice. So the recently married couple went shopping for a city – away from the cold of the North, clean air, not too big yet big enough to sustain another plumbing business. Four weeks after they set out they slowly drove through what could have been their twenty-fifth or thirtieth city, Bryden Falls, touching the north side of the Canadian-American border.
“Let’s turn around,” Jeni suggested. Soon the slender young lady and the burly young man were walking hand-in-hand down the streets, inspecting parks and playgrounds and schools, talking to a gas station attendant and a waitress and a few friendly pedestrians, getting a feel for the place.
“I like it!” Jeni said at last. “I like it very much!”
“This is home,” Reuben agreed. “This is where we will raise our family.”
They spent days driving the outskirts in search of just the right property at just the right price at just the right distance from town. As soon as they secured land with a twenty-percent down payment they set up a tent, saving rent money for their new house. The first thing they did was thin out the trees, and the money from the valuable timber paid for much of the construction. Reuben was more than a qualified licensed plumber; he inherited his dad’s aptitude for building. Reuben and Jeni both worked hard and long hours through four seasons, no laziness to be found in either. Today barefoot John Douglas Tanner was taking his first steps on the warm living room floor.
But all was not well.
Neither the house of her dreams, nor the lovely panorama stretched out before her, not even the contented sounds of her beautiful baby John could console her sorrowing heart. Had Jeni Tanner known her husband’s dark side she would never have married him.
saturday, april 7th, 2007, 12:30 p.m.
“I’ll get that,” Tree offered after he and Mac both ordered soup, sandwich and coffee at the counter.
“You’ll what? You are actually going to pay?” Mac teased. “What’s the occasion?”
“Hey man, you got it last time.”
“And the time before that and the time before that.”
“Okay, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do,” Tree grinned a rare grin through his bushy walrus mustache. “You know, it’s easier on the budget if the other guy pays.”
“Is that why you forget your wallet in the car?”
“Remember the time we both forgot our wallets?”
“Yeah, embarrassing,” Mac replied. “I was trying to get you back. The next time I forget I’ll let you know in advance.”
Mac’s solid six-foot stature would make him appear formidable standing beside most, but not so beside his bud. While Mac’s stride to a corner table revealed agility, Tree’s long legs swung like stiff stilts. Mac sat down; Tree plopped into his chair. Mac sat erect; Tree’s slouch extended to the next table. Mac’s hair was short and trim; Tree’s was almost to his shoulders. Mac’s bright rounded face was non-threatening, even approachable; Tree’s frown seemed to be permanently chiseled in his rugged, mustached face.
“So let’s get down to business,” Mac said to his friend.
“Yes, baseball business. Here’s this year’s schedule.” Tree was the president of the division’s American Northwestern Men’s Baseball League consisting of eight teams, Mac’s Challengers being the lone Canadian team. Tree was also head coach of the Grizzlies who took first place the last three years, and their starter pitcher. At the beginning of each season he drove to the various cities to meet up with the other coaches to go over the scheduling, and respond to complaints and potential problems.
“Look okay?” Tree asked.
“Everything’s okay except that two of the playoff games are on Sunday morning when we have our service.”
“You don’t have to worry about that, man; you’ve never made the playoffs yet.”
“Hey!” Mac feigned hurt feelings.
“What’s it like at the bottom?” Tree wanted revenge for the forget-the-wallet ribbing.
“I don’t remember; last year we were fifth place. This year the playoffs.”
“Oh, I do understand Christians believe in miracles.”
“We also believe in practice. We’ve been in a gym all winter. We are set to go. We are determined to make the playoffs this year. We’ll show you pagans.”
“That would be embarrassing,” Tree responded.
“Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for the four teams who got beat out by a church team, a Canadian church team?”
“Yes, I have imagined it.”
“Is there no pity in you, man?”
“Just how did you manage to put together a baseball team from one congregation? Do you pick up extras from outside your church?”
“Nope. Only those attending the Center can play on the Challengers. The Lord sends us baseball players, a few are above average, and we fill in the other positions the best we can. Even our new assistant pastor plays ball. And we have a few players coming up from minor league.”
“My son, Kyle and Roo’s son, John.”
“The league manual specifically states that the minimum age is nineteen,” Tree pretended sternness.
“I know. But my best friend is the pres.”
“You Christians! Five years ago we show a little compassion by allowing you – a Canadian church team – into the league, and now you’re trying to bend the rules.” Tree was thoroughly enjoying himself.
“You wouldn’t have let us in if you didn’t need another team.”
“True,” Tree conceded. “Seven is an awkward number when it comes to scheduling. We thought you guys would be a good team to practice with, a real confidence builder.”
“Fooled you last year, didn’t we?”
Time to change the subject. “Is John Tanner as good as his dad?”
“No one in the league matches Roo. A great catcher, and as you know the highest batting average of all eight teams.”
“Tell me about it. I pitch to him, remember? He connects to everything I throw at him.”
“He used to be better.”
“He became a Christian.”
“What? He became a Christian and his batting average went down?”
“Tell me about it, man.” Tree sensed Mac wasn’t kidding.
“When I first met Roo, he was, well, shall we say, un-nice.”
“Un-nice? Never heard that word before.”
“I just invented it; it’s a kinder word than jerk. That was many years ago when we were playing other church teams. Jeni was attending the services we were having in a school by herself, and inquired if her husband could play for the Challengers.”
“Roo’s wife. Roo loves baseball, but I wouldn’t let him play unless he agreed to attend at least two Sunday services a month.”
“Sounds like blackmail.”
“It was. When Roo stepped up to the plate, he entered into a different zone. There was no catcher, no umpire, no baseball game, no coach, not even a pitcher. There was a white ball, and that’s it. He had one thought, hit the ball. He never knew what the count was. When he struck out someone had to tell him. He never paid any attention to me coaching on the third base sideline, giving signals. I gave signals anyway so that the other team thought Roo was complying with me. I could never ask Roo to bunt; he was there to hit the ball, as hard and far as possible. It’s like he was possessed.”
“Roo had a dark side in those days. Anyhow, Roo swung at anything that came close to the strike range. He usually got a hit.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well, as I said, he became a Christian. He was no longer so intent. Baseball didn’t matter so much. He was no longer a man obsessed. He never lost his talent, of course, so he is still an excellent hitter. Just not as good as before.”
“A dark side, you say?”
“Because Roo gave a public testimony at our church, I feel free to share that with you.”
“Yea, you know, when one tells their story of how they came to Christ.”
“I know someone like that.” Mac knew Tree was referring to himself.
“How are the nightmares?”
“They come visiting most nights. Post-traumatic stress, I’m told. I can see Billy and Jesse and Pete and …… I see their eyes staring their dead stares, their young bodies mangled and bloodied. Don’t you see them, Mac?”
“Must be nice.”
“Do you see Sally much?”
“Not since the divorce.”
“And the kids? How are they?”
“They’re doing okay. Kay-Lyn is fifteen, and Brandon is two years behind her, both getting decent marks in most subjects, behind in others.”
Tree stopped talking, and Mac didn’t break the silence.
“No, they’re not okay,” Tree corrected himself. “They both have my sadness. So does Sally. None of us can shake it. Wish we were never sent to Granada.”
“We did our bit for our country.”
“I know. I know.”
“I hurt for you, bud.”
“Doesn’t help, man.”
“I still pray for you, though I admit not as much as I used to.”
“I hate God, Mac! I hate Him so much!” It was the pain of losing his family that made Tree flare.
“Yet I’m your friend.”
“My best friend.”
“I wouldn’t be if you knew some of the names I’ve called your God.”
“Yes I would.”
“I don’t understand you, man.” And after a hesitation, “Now let’s get back to the schedule. If by some miracle you and your band of merry Christians make the playoffs, perhaps we can make an adjustment.”
“No, that won’t be necessary. Our church has already decided to skip Sunday morning service if it coincides with a playoff game.”
“They would do that?”
saturday, april 7th, 2007, 5:30 p.m.
Kyle and Katie Maclin were both at the door to greet their friends, fellow MorLord Worship Band members, who came to celebrate their eighteenth. Eighteen years ago Kyle and Katie’s arrival brought incredible relief to Vivian and Terry Maclin. Reports of the perfectly healthy twins born in Bryden Falls General spilled excitement into the community via radio and two local papers. The attention the twins garnered had the surprise effect of swelling the Bible study group, and soon Terry was looking for a building to accommodate them all, and Terry Maclin evolved into Brother Maclin, and then Pastor Maclin and then Pastor Mac. Mac’s people shared their joy, fully adapted the twins into their hearts, and felt no compulsion to check their outpouring of awe and attention upon the look-alikes.
John Douglas Tanner was first arrival at the Maclins. John had never been to school a day in his life. Mom was his teacher, Mom his mentor, Mom, more than any other, his influence, and that influence was Godly, unusually so. John’s home was his school, the acreage his playground, his four siblings his closest friends. The richness of Jeni’s character produced good fruit in her children; in John it fashioned a reverence for God, moral strength, and love for music. Home-schooled mature quickly, being so much in the company of an adult, and John was no exception, having the bearing of one years older. John was an aspiring violinist.
Tanya Borric was second to arrive. Tanya’s parents were founding members of the Center, going back eighteen years, her dad a board elder. Tanya was a shy, overweight seventeen. Though gifted with a rich voice, she dared not hope to be chosen lead vocalist. Actually, her sole aspiration was to be accepted by her peers.
Todd Anderson was next at the Maclin door. Todd was not shy. His father, also an elder, was a success in business, owner of a car dealership. The confidence that helped make him wealthy rubbed off on his son. Todd was an able guitarist and proud owner of a gifted voice. Perhaps, he hoped, he would be chosen lead vocalist; being nineteen, this was his last chance.
Marie Schierling was on keyboard and also played flute. She arrived the same time as Mark Rogers the drummer. Whoever was chosen band captain would have the responsibility of tempering this drummer’s enthusiasm that, as of yet, far surpassed his talent.
Karla Morgan, last arrival, didn’t play an instrument, and her voice was only acceptable when accompanied by others. Katie suspected her interests were more in her brother than the band.
This year’s worship band, which was to have its official beginning in two weeks at their first practice, would be responsible for governing itself, mostly, Assistant Pastor Phil Ferguson a distant overseer. The band members were to select their own band captain who, with the input of the other members, was to make the many required decisions. Kyle, lead guitarist, felt the responsibility to captain the team should fall on him, the pastor’s son.
Katie, like Tanya, Todd and Karla, was a vocalist, quite good, but not necessarily the best of the four. Katie would find it more than a little difficult to settle for backup singer. All her life people seemed to do whatever it took to make her smile. Kyle seemed to be born smiling, but Katie often had to be coaxed. Being twins, and being the pastor’s kids, they were both the darlings of the church, and much energy was invested to keep Katie as happy as her twin; one smiling, the other frowning would never do. Katie more than hoped her band peers would do what was necessary to make her happy by selecting her lead vocalist, she expected it – sort of.
For each of the band members it was a plus to be a guest at the pastor’s home. Pastor Mac never had a problem relating with young people. It was a happy, giggling group seated around the Maclin dining room table that Saturday evening devouring Vivian’s roasted duck supper. After supper Mac made a special effort to make the Tanner boy feel welcome, talking baseball, fishing and church concerns. Mac had always been impressed with John’s maturity and interest in the spiritual. He had the potential to make an excellent pastor some day.
For John, the Center was a social halfway house, halfway between his protected life with Mom and Dad and the coming adult life somewhere out there, somewhere else. Of course, the influence of the Center was not only social, but spiritual. Socially, there was no conflict between the Center and home; however, spiritually there was an inconsistency. It was something John felt rather than understood. He knew the spiritual atmosphere at the church was different than that of home. This puzzled the eighteen year old, and caused not a little tension. It was like the influence of church life was tugging him in one direction, while home influence was tugging in the other. Home was vastly outnumbered, consisting only of Dad and Mom. The Center had many to influence – the youth group, band, the baseball team, personal friends, Pastor Phil, Pastor Mac and many others in the four-hundred congregation. And then there was Katie.
No, nothing had ever been spoken between the two, nor had either spoken of it to another, and yet both knew. They were never alone, nor did they want to be, it was too early for that. Kyle knew, being so close to both his twin and closest friend. Vivian suspected. Jeni was certain. Mac was clueless.
There was simply a mutual awareness that John and Katie were each other’s choice, something that could go beyond the romantic, even a lifelong partnership. Though knowing each other most of their lives, only recently were they interested in the other. Katie was firmly attached to all that the Center was and represented; this added oomph to the pull upon John’s loyalty to home and parents.
Katie knew no other life. And she prized it. Her father was the hub of a sizeable spiritual community. He was more than unforgotten; he was gazed upon. In the entire congregation, her-dad-the-pastor was the only one never ignored or slighted. His presence was always acknowledged, his company envied.
Growing up under mother’s wings, she noticed how the ladies became more enthused preparing the potluck meal when her-mom-the-pastor’s-wife walked into the kitchen, and how they felt obligated to explain to Vivian all details of the preparation. Katie noticed how their intensity escalated when Mom led in prayer, and how her opinion about various matters was sought, her approval needed.
Katie’s husband, she decided, would be a pastor. As a pastor’s wife, she would be …… influential? …… no, beneficial. She was willing to start their own church, if that was required, just like her parents did when they were young. But for now the immediate issue was lead vocalist. Katie understood leverage well, and was confident.
Mac had to leave the celebration early to prepare for tomorrow’s message. Before doing so he asked John to drop by the church on his way home. “Blow your horn and I’ll come out to the parking lot.”
saturday, april 7th, 2007, 7:30 p.m.
Terry Maclin looked forward to these Saturday evening alone times at the church. Quiet, peaceful, no ringing phone, no questions or interferences. Two hours, maybe three. He liked to pace the aisles as he prayed and prepared for Sunday’s message, or just let his mind drift here and there and wherever. Lights were off except for the one shining from the pulpit, that one never turned off.
It has been a good day, Mac reckoned. Good to see Tree again, though he ached for his friend. Hadn’t lunched with Tree since the end of last season’s ball. Can’t let that happen. Must make contact at least every two months no matter what shape the roads are in. And then his mind drifted to baseball.
Baseball practice went well this afternoon. Winter practice will give us a head start. Think we’ll do okay this year. Kyle and John will give us a boost. Kyle’s got a good arm. We can use help on the mound. My arm ain’t what it used to be. And John! Man, that kid can hit! Inherited his dad’s barrel-chested physique. Lots of power.
And then an unhappy thought. Hmmm. Roo!…… Roo gave no hint why he wanted to see me Monday. Mac was very aware of the enemy, never far away, lurking, looking for inroads, eager to disrupt unity. He captained a tight ship, and always tried to foresee a problem before it got here. Ever the watchful shepherd, even a little detail out of place aroused alertness and disrupted his calm. Many in his congregation made appointments, no problem; they needed something he had to offer, advice maybe, or encouragement or just a listening ear. But Roo? Un-unh. Roo was different. Mac and Roo were not …… together. Not like before. Roo had …… drifted. They were no longer on the same page. Well, Mac concluded, Monday’s not far away. I’ll know soon enough.
And then his thoughts rolled onto his twins. Seem to have enjoyed their birthday supper with the band. Good kids, all of them. Katie sure wants to be lead vocalist this year. Real bad. Even took voice lessons. Had to dig deep for that. She is good, but so are a few of the others. Like Tanya Borric and Todd Anderson. Less poise than Katie, but strong voices capable of captivating an audience. Mac appointed Phil Ferguson to give leadership to the Center’s teen-age band so there wouldn’t be an appearance of favoritism towards his kids. In actuality, however, though neither would admit it, Phil, as assistant pastor, was merely an appendage of Terry Maclin’s authority; the potential for partiality was still there, just less apparent.
Now I’ve got to get ready for tomorrow’s message, Mac reprimanded himself.
Walking the aisles in thought and prayer, it was natural for Mac’s eyes to keep falling on the light splashing its mild glow from the underside of the pulpit into the large sanctuary. The light shooting upwards from the base was intended to depict the Word going forth. A beautiful pulpit, rich and splendid, the centerpiece of the sanctuary, it had been an essential tool to the building of Bryden Falls Community Christian Center. From there he rallied the troops and kept the vision alive.
To himself, Mac referred to the pulpit, any pulpit, as the god-maker. He knew the power of the pulpit to enlarge – puff up – the one positioned behind it. The ordinary would eventually evolve into God’s anointed, his perspective increasingly valued as Sundays rotated. And the gifted orator was ballooned beyond recognition. Man titled the minister “Reverend”; the pulpit gave the title credibility. Mac knew for a fact there was a wide gap between the Christian he was and the Christian he was perceived to be.
Gazing upon the pulpit distracted Mac, and he looked away from tomorrow’s service to the first Sunday in June. Superintendent Martin Johnston requested he give the main sermon at the Sunday morning service at the denomination’s bi-annual northwest conference. It was a real honor. For years Mac had served as district elder, one of a dozen, and to be chosen keynote speaker was an indication of credibility amongst his peers. Superintendent Johnston hoped Mac’s sharing would be a balm of encouragement to those less successful. His Center was started from zilch in an unfamiliar mid-size city, its steady growth could not be traced to a church split in the community, many of the adherents at the Center were a result of Mac’s and Vivian’s evangelistic efforts through personable encounters.
Mac learned years ago that when he had the title to a message, the message came easy. And Mac knew at that moment, gazing upon the pulpit he long ago chose for the Center, the title of his message to be delivered at the conference: Pulpit Power.
Insights regarding Pulpit Power, started to come. Mac learned long ago to write them down immediately, his memory not to be trusted. And if he would just remember to get his scribbled notes to Vivian, she would dutifully type and file them in the computer for future use. So standing at the pulpit facing the empty church he began to pen his thoughts: The pulpit can be likened to a weapon that, although in itself amoral, if mishandled, can do much damage to those within its range…… volumes of both Godly insights and false winds of doctrine pour forth from pulpits on any given Sunday…… there has been instances within our own denomination when entire assemblies have been split and broken by errant pastors who forsook denominational doctrine, replacing them with ear-tickling half-truths…… and it’s not sufficient to speak truth, truth must come in due season…… truth must come from a gentle spirit, not a spirit harsh and angry…… some use Scripture like a soldier would use a machine gun; instead of spitting out bullets, they spew out verses meant to silence those who dare possess an adverse position…… we are called as servants to offer a healthy diet of God’s truths, not to force-feed those we perceive to be in need of our wisdom…… David said of the Lord, “Your gentleness has made me great.”
Mac’s thoughts were disrupted by a horn outside. Who can that be at this hour? Oh yes, Mac remembered, that’s John Tanner. Told him to drop by on his way home from the dinner party. But he dared not stop writing; inspiration chooses its own moments. “Hang on, John!” he said, breaking the silence of the sanctuary. “Hang on!”
The pulpit can be – no, the pulpit most often is – a corrupter to the naive speaker…… if you use your impressionable congregation as a mirror, your self-image will be seriously distorted…… that distorted mirror will make you appear to be bigger, wiser and holier than you are…… pride will set in, and in time you will destroy yourself and the congregation you have agreed to protect.
“Hang on, John, hang on!” Faster he wrote: Most of us are simply incapable of the attention and adulation the pulpit affords…… though most would deny it, or never realize it, everyone wants to reach, to touch, to associate with the man in the pulpit…… they covet your company much more than you theirs, and that can be dangerous…… what the stage and bright lights do to the rock star, so the pulpit does to the pupiteer…… if you do not approach the pulpit with humility and a healthy fear of the Lord I would suggest that you do not approach it at all.
“Okay John, I’m coming!” Mac said at the second honk of the horn, heading towards the front entrance. John Douglas Tanner – such a nice kid, Mac thought. Never did see any teen-age rebellion in him. Never ashamed to be seen with his parents. Shy, but he always looked an adult in the eye. Credit his mom Jeni, the intercessor, for that. And Roo is a positive role model, I have to admit. Admit? Did I use that word?
“John!” Mac said leaning on Reuben’s Plumbing van.
“Enjoy the dinner party?”
“And now you’re heading home.”
“Kyle tells me the two of you have been discussing the possibility of attending Norwestern Seminary together.”
“I’ve been thinking about it. I know Kyle is set to go.”
“Yes, he is. He certainly has our blessing. Now I want to run something by you. As you may know, in June we are holding our conference. We have it every two years, at various locations. This year we have decided to invite anyone who shows potential for the ministry. We will be needing replacements for those soon retiring, and we want to challenge others to pioneer churches, just as I did several years ago. Head office has agreed to cover all meals and a hotel room for the guests. All you have to do is come up with the airfare. No obligations or expectations will be placed on you. What do you think?”
“Wow!” was all John could say.
“So pray about it, and let me know as soon as possible. I would never have asked you if I didn’t see a real potential for ministry. I have watched you grow up since you were not much higher than my knees. Your zeal for God is uncommon, especially for your age. I respect you as a person, and am privileged to know you.”
The pastor’s words moistened the teen-ager’s eyes. “Thanks, Pastor.”
And I would like you to marry my Katie some day. We could go fishing together, barbecue Saturday afternoons, do some fishing, take my grandkids to the park……
“Of course, you must have your parents’ consent.”
“No problem……don’t think.” John didn’t respond to Mac’s curious look.
“So drive home safely. See you tomorrow morning.”
“Love you, John.”
“Love you, Pastor Mac.”
Hmmm. Surely Roo wouldn’t object to his son going to the conference. Or entering the ministry. Would he?
monday, january 12th, 1990, 3:00 p.m.
Jeni Tanner enjoyed chopping the tamarack into kindling which she stacked in piles under the protection of the open-ended shed. Baby John Douglas having his afternoon nap, the housework accomplished, she liked spending these afternoon hours doing her outdoor chores. Having been raised on a farm, Jeni long ago reckoned the benefits of isolation surpassed the drawbacks, and very much loved their ranch-in-the–making. Occasionally she was able to capture the euphoria coming through nature’s sights and sounds on her painting canvass. Sounds were crisp and articulate here – the chop of her ax, the scolding chipmunks, the moody winds, Shep’s intermittent barking at some imaginary enemy off in the distance, the crunch of snow under her boots, her footsteps on the porch. The snow added to the charm of her treed world, making it a splendor of white.
She was accustomed to work, and there was much to be done. The electrical power lines had not yet reached their property, and they couldn’t afford the cost of bringing it in. It would come in time, as others moved into the area, but for now they were roughing it. Both she and Reuben agreed – no generator. No ugly noise intruding the serenity of their dream home and property. The chipmunks would not appreciate that, nor the quail that fed on the crumbs of Jeni’s homemade bread, nor the deer that occasionally dared come within view of their log house. No, it was not the work or the isolation that dampened her soul.
Jeni relished the hours her husband was away on a job, trying to build his business in a town that seemed to have too many plumbers, though his absence added to her solitude. She was but twenty-three years, much too young to be burdened by the sadness that settled obtrusively into her spirit, a spirit uncommonly sensitive and susceptible. Her marriage started off well. She was happy to leave Reuben’s parents in the north country, to get away from her father-in-law’s endemic cynicism and her mother-in-law’s ensuing subservience. Reuben was different from his dad, mellow and unassuming, carefully weighing a matter before speaking, and she was confident he would always be sensitive to her vulnerable spirit. On that basis she answered, “Yes, Reuben, I will gladly be your wife.”
It began when they were building their log home that, combined with the pressure of starting a new business and an earlier-than-planned pregnancy, was a load too heavy for the young plumber. Until then he managed to fend off the hideous spirit that long ago attached itself to his father’s soul, but now life’s pressures opened a breach.
Though a thousand miles apart, Reuben Tanner senior and Reuben Tanner junior were constantly in contact over the phone, more than any other time in their lives. Reuben was strong and gifted with a knack to get the job done, but the young man lacked the knowledge to build his log home and ranch, and about starting and running a business. But his father, an able contractor, had all the answers.
It was his father who told him how to get a phone, so necessary for his out-of-home plumbing business, to his secluded house. On his instructions Reuben ran an electrical wire from the closest neighbor bordering his property, a full half-mile to his own house, stringing the wire along fences, burying it under roadways, covering it with brush and branches, and just laying it on the open ground though trees and foliage. The neighbor balked at Reuben’s suggestion that he order a second telephone line in his own name until Reuben said that he would take care of all of his plumbing repairs, plus pay the entire monthly telephone bill. The telephone company never knew of their arrangement, the neighbor was happy, and the Tanners had their contact with the outside world.
Many evenings were spent with Dad on the phone getting instructions for construction – how to set the footings, square the walls, build the massive fireplace, shingle the roof, etc., etc. Unfortunately, that’s not all the son absorbed from Dad.
Reuben had no choice but to listen to his father’s ceaseless ranting and boasting and expletives always accompanying his advice and instructions. Many hours every week for many months the cynicism poured into Reuben’s ears unabatedly, and eventually what entered his ears leaked out of his mouth, at first in little dribbles, but eventually the leak became a river equal to his father’s. Jeni was devastated. It was as if her father-in-law came bursting through the door of their sacred marriage, an unwelcome intruder who would never leave.
Reuben picked up his father’s pet expression: son-of-a-bitch. Anything that got in his way, anything that irked him, anyone who crossed his path, male or female, was a son-of-a-bitch. If the adversaries were plural, they were sons-o’-bitches. Jeni could count on at least a dozen such expletives any Saturday or Sunday when Reuben was home, and half that many after a day’s work, each one pricking her gentle spirit. She feared Reuben’s newfound scorn and sarcasm would drive her mad. She could envision herself her mother-in-law’s clone in just a few years – withdrawn and cowering, never voicing an opinion or conviction. And in twenty years her precious John would be filling his own home with the same spew. And what about the child in her womb?
Jeni wanted to run. She contrived a plan. She would leave a note, drive to town as soon as Reuben left for work, catch a bus, head east, find a job as a waitress until able to make a living selling her pictures. But how could she take his son from him? How could she abandon the one she committed herself to in marriage? But did she really have a choice?
saturday, april 7th, 2007, 9:00 p.m.
Arms outstretched and leaning against the pulpit, Mac had to admit again what he long ago concluded: he loved the pulpit. He loved the pulpit because he loved to be heard.
Mac could not remember as a child or a teen-ager anyone seriously wanting to listen to him. The fifth of six children, he was seldom the center of attention of parents always in the midst of a myriad of responsibilities. He was patiently given opportunity to express his needs, but not youthful thoughts and observations. There was never an occasion when someone looked him in the eye and said, “What do you have to say? What do you believe? What is inside you?”
Everyone wants to be heard. An attentive audience, even an audience of one, is the secret longing of most, even the shy. Isn’t there someone out there who will listen to me, I mean really listen? the heart cries. I have opinions to express, emotions to vent, dreams to share, wisdom to freely give. Is there no one to hear? Is there not one in need of my rich counsel? Often when two converse neither are listening with intensity, both more wanting to express than to hear. When you see that blank stare you know connection has been lost, even though the other may be nodding in agreement. No one likes to be ignored, yet most are mostly.
Mac harbored the nasty suspicion that many who gained control of the pulpit were those who had the greater need, undoubtedly an unconscious need, to be heard – and this they mistook for a calling of God to preach His Word and shepherd His sheep! There I go again, Mac scolded himself. Mac was an incurable studier-of-persons. Should have been a psychoanalyst, he kidded himself. Unlike most psychoanalysts, however, Mac realized the flawed condition of man’s mind and heart was a result of sin – Adam’s, etc. And he had little delusion about his own heart and motives. He acknowledged many faults, but knew God had a particular distaste for hypocrisy, and though far from transparent he was determined to always be honest and open before at least two persons, himself and God. He would occasionally confess, in general terms, his shortcomings before the congregation. But never specifics. Boy, would they be shocked, Mac chuckled. They think our marriage is great. Okay, yes; better than average, maybe; great, no. His honest heart made him admit that the motive to curb marital spats and outbursts of anger was not a mutual love for God, or a love and respect for each other, though certainly these attributes were there, but rather the reality that his repute as an altogether pastor cannot be compromised. Undercurrents of tension caused by marital power struggles, which has plagued the last ten years or so of marriage, must never surface.
And they think I have an uncommon moral fiber. Wrong. They should have seen me trying to fit the screens into the upstairs windows last Friday. About an inch away from a full-blown temper tantrum. Had to get out of there before I lost it. The screens are still not in, an unhappy thought.
More than anything, it was the pulpit that cultivated this unrealistic image of a holy, at least holier-than-most, man of God. Sure, he truly loved his people, cared for them, hurt with them, and wanted very much to bless them with the Word of God. But his motives for pulpit ministry were a mixture of good and far from good, a desire to bless and a want to be influential. Every Sunday morning he had an audience waiting for him to expound his spirituals wares. Certainly their concentration slipped in and out, but at any given moment many were fully focused on his message – and him. It made him feel thoroughly wanted and important. Who doesn’t want to be significant? His forty-five minute sermon was his week’s climax, almost as cherished as his salary.
Honesty before God, Mac long ago concluded, helped protect him from the snares so many others fell into. How easy to slip from humility to pride, from leader to controller, from teacher to verbal tyrant, from servant to king.
Mac rarely shared the pulpit with anyone, and no one ever complained. Mac had always been amazed at peoples’ readiness to accept unwritten, unspoken rules, even unreasonable ones. Everyone simply accepted he alone was commissioned by God to preach from the pulpit, though he had never voiced such a thought. He knew Vivian itched to preach although she would never ask, asking a trespass against one of the unwritten rules. Vivian graduated from the same Bible school, her ability to communicate quite adequate, doctrinally they were on the same page; but though the pastor’s wife she was still laity, and Mac had no intention of opening that door. Secretly, he was well pleased with the denomination’s policy not to license women, though he was not sure he agreed. The last thing he wanted was a husband-wife pastoral team. For Vivian, the policy was, “an outdated, male-supremacy convenience.” Nonetheless, she accepted that painful convenience, accepting something a dutiful pastor’s wife does.
Now Phil Ferguson is a different story. Not yet ordained, but licensed and part-time staff as of three months ago, Phil expected eventual access to the pulpit. And Mac knew he must concede. Mac remembered his one and only stint as assistant pastor when a few years younger than Phil. The only time the pastor released his pulpit to him was when he had a firm grip on another, a speaking engagement in another church service or conference or whatever. Mac put up with that for a year and resigned, determined never to be anyone’s add-on again.
The official story is that Terry and Vivian Maclin felt the call of God to pioneer a church in Canada. But that was the distorted version. The real story is that the pastor insisted that Terry agree not to start a church in that city or region for two years minimum. He had become quite popular in the congregation with young and old, and the fear was that some would leave the church for his. An official from head office was brought in to reinforce the pastor’s demand. “How about Canada?” Mac asked. “Canada? Well, yes.” So Terry and Vivian moved to Bryden Falls, north of the border, still reasonably close to both their families and friends.
No, Mac determined, I will not do that to Phil. I will share the pulpit. Ouch!
Mac found himself packing his books and notes earlier than usual. He hadn’t yet been there two hours, but was feeling uncomfortable about something. Something in the air. What is it? And then he recalled Vivian’s words, “The men working on the floor in the sanctuary should be finished late afternoon.” That’s it. The floorers just finished installing the new carpet. That’s what’s in the air…… fibers from the carpet. Must come early tomorrow and air this place out. Mac made a quick inspection of the new red carpet, and was satisfied with the workmanship. Mmmm. This is the second time this carpet has been replaced. And out the front door he went.
monday, april 9th, 2007, 12:55 p.m.
“Good afternoon, Reuben.” Vivian was cordial.
“Hello, Vivian.” It had been years since they had occasion to speak to each other.
“Terry will be right with you. He’s been having a busy day.” Pushing an intercom button, “Reuben Tanner here to see you.”
“How are Jeni and the children?”
“Blessed. Our God is good.”
“Well, yes, of course,” Vivian agreed just as Mac came out of his office into the reception area.
“Roo!” Mac gave his back catcher a bear hug.
Mac? Not pastor Mac? Vivian didn’t like that; slighting the husband is slighting the wife.
Nor did Mac. Mac. Not Pastor Mac. The only one in the congregation who doesn’t call me Pastor. We will have to talk about that one day .“Come in! Come in! Have a seat. No sit here,” and he rolled his sizable leather seat from behind his desk, pulling up a chair for himself.
And then they went through the preliminaries: How’s Jeni?…… Jeni is doing fine…… Good to hear. And the children?…… Stretching up. Everyone’s healthy. And the twins?…… Busy. Both finishing their one-year business course. And there’s youth and band…… John, too. And now ball is starting up…… Yeah. We can sure use new blood. Have you noticed we are not getting any younger, Roo?…… First game on Thursday…… Right, my friend Tree’s team…… They’ll be the team to beat, Mac…… Do you think practice went okay on Saturday?…… Great. It was good to get together with the team again. The diamond is mostly dried out from the winter…… Sweet. I think our winter practices in the gym will pay dividends…… Yeah, it will give us a head start…… Be nice to make the playoffs this year, real nice…… Sweet. We could have made it last year but they always save their best pitchers for us…… Yeah, they hate losing to a Canadian team. And they really hate losing to a church team…… The upside is we improve because we play their best…… Good point….. This year we have a good chance. We have John and Kyle and Phil Ferguson this year. Maybe Phil can help me behind the plate…… I don’t know, Roo. Not many want to be back catcher. And you’re the best…… Thanks. We will have to work on our signals. Some of the teams are good at decoding…… I know. By the way, how’s business?…… Business is good…… Lots of work?…… As much as I want. I have no desire to be wealthy…… You are wealthy, Roo…… I hear you……
Mac used small talk to relieve the tension often accompanying his guests, and it always worked, though never fully. Visiting a pastor in the pastor’s office is not easy for most, and he sensed Roo was no exception. Eventually Mac got down to business. “So what brings you here, my friend? I must say, I have been curious.”
“I have a request I want you to prayerfully consider, Mac.”
Mac, again. “What is it, Roo? You have been a blessing to me and to this church for many years. How can I help you?”
“First I must share where I am coming from.”
“Love to hear it.”
“I have had an unusual hunger for the Lord the past five or six years. I have set aside Fridays, and lately Mondays, for prayer and studying the Bible.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing. Must be nice.”
“It is. And it’s also been painful. He has shown me many things about myself. You know, my heart, my motives, my life.”
“I am listening, Roo.” Mac was beginning to relax about the purpose of Roo’s visit. Obviously, he simply wants to share his heart, probably have me pray with him.
“He also has been speaking to me about our congregation.”
“Oh?” Mac didn’t like this. Hard to believe God would speak to one of the sheep about the flock. Always thought he would speak to the one responsible, the shepherd – me.
“I believe I have a message for the congregation.”
“I request access to the pulpit. I will need two successive Sundays to deliver the word I believe the Lord would have me give.”
“I beg your pardon,” Mac responded in disbelief, not sure he heard correctly.