It’s been a wet spring out on Bittersweet Farm, but it was dry enough to mow last night. Bt evening, I enjoyed the solitude of riding the tractor and the satisfaction of a job well done. After dinner Lois and I sat out on the east-facing porch looking out over the lawn feeling grateful to God for our little place and for our life.
We had Laela, Aspen, and Gunnison with us for the evening. They are delightful little people. It is a reminder to us of those sweet, brief years when our house was full of life and noise and laugher and chaos. Last night little Gunnison got in bed with us and started to fuss. I pulled up a video of his Dad, Chuk, playing the guitar and singing. He cooed along and drifted off to sleep. I hope you are sleeping well and you have a few minutes each evening to reflect on what you have accomplish and what God has done for you.
When the Tent Collapsed
Our family attended an annual meeting of our fellowship of churches when I was about 14. Dad was a bi-vocational pastor. At heart he was a pastor. To support his ministry he taught school. Dad was not a school teacher who pastored on the side. Dad was a pastor who taught school to pay the bills. He is still a pastor but he has not taught school for many, many years.
That summer he and mom decided we would attend the national conference in Kansas City. Mom and Dad wanted to strengthen our faith and our resolve to serve the Lord more than anything in the world. They wanted us to have a happy and enriching experience. They wanted to take advantage of the trip to broaden our exposure to our nation’s history and heritage and natural beauty. We did not have a lot but they did not want us to be uncultured.
We would make a vacation of it by seeing some places of historic interest and we would save money and make it a bit of an adventure by camping out in a tent. A family of six, we filled every seat of the Chrysler and packed the truck full with a tent and gas stove and sleeping bags and bibles and suits and dresses and everything you might need for a vacation to the annual meeting and Bible conference.
It must have been humorous to the other families who were vacationing at the crowded campground out along Interstate 70 that week to see the family of six emerge every morning, Dad brothers and I wearing suits and ties, Mom and Melony in dresses, Scofield Bibles tucked under our arms, off to the conference. The meeting was held in a convention center and attended by thousands.
Things went fairly well until the day it rained all day, I mean all day long. By the time we returned to the campsite, the drenching all-day rains had stopped and the the sky had cleared but our tent had collapsed in the storm and lay pitifully under pools of water. I could tell Dad was discouraged. Mom was really trying her best to be a good sport but camping was not an adventure to her, it was an economic necessity. It was difficult for her to sleep on the ground. She had a great spirit and loved the things of the Lord. She longed to enjoy Bible preaching a music so much that she was willing to endure the camping, but now everything we had was rain-soaked except the outfits we were wearing. We did our best to get our things together and we all went to sleep in a soggy tent with wet sleeping bags.
Dad was discouraged. We agreed never to try to camp out and attend a Bible Conference again and made our way home agreeing that it was probably a bad idea. I know Dad felt defeated. He was discouraged that he did not have the means to put us up in a nice hotel and have sit-down meals at restaurants. I happen to know that he felt like a loser and a failure. In unguarded moments he wrestled with feelings of defeat. I’m sure he felt deeply that he failed at all of his objectives for his family that summer, but he did not fail. He succeeded.
At the time dad pastored a new church plant that was small. We had no pipe organ, no large choir. We had simple gospel singing lead by one of the men and accompanied by the piano back home. At the conference the music was moving. Mom and Dad would sing from their hearts. Well-known, respected national leaders preached. We took notes. It was a good conference. There were displays of christian books which always captured my interest. There were many other families. There were displays and presentations from missions organizations and colleges and seminaries.
I remember the evangelism seminary with Robert Sumner. It stirred my heart win people to Christ. I remember the book my Dad bought me from the book table. I remember tears flowing down Mom and Dad’s faces as they sang with thousands of others. I remember the powerful preaching stirring my heart to one day preach the Word with that kind of confidence, conviction and power. I remember the joy of a few simple meals out and treats at night on the way home from the conference. I have joyful memories of getting back to the campgrounds and night and changing into my swimming trunks that week and learning to swim in the little pool. That summer I was able to jump of the high-dive and swim to the side of the pool. I had never been able to two that before.
Today my sister is a pastor’s wife and has been for many, many decades. I have been a pastor serving the Lord with all my heart for forty years, singing and preaching and teaching and writing and doing everything I can to pour my heart into the Lord’s work. My little brother Kevin, who on those long vacation trips sat between me and my sister Melony with his feet on the “hump” is a faithful pastor and serves full-time today at Camp Barakel making fine Bible Conference and Camp experiences possible for hundreds and hundreds of people every year. My little brother Nathan who sat in front between mom and dad in the old Chrysler has also been a pastor for many years, a fine, faithful, passionate musician, teacher, and preacher with a beautiful Christian family.
The tent caved in and we were not rich. We didn’t have a fancy camper or money for a suite in the hotel. Dad was not a nationally-recognized leader with a position in the fellowship of churches. But the man who put together that trip to Kansas City was not at all a failure. He wanted to do something that would encourage his family to love and serve Jesus and, by God’s grace, he succeeded. All of his children are serving the Lord today and each of them have labored in the same way to raise their children to know and love and serve Jesus too.
The tent collapsed and the family looked a little odd emerging from the tent in suits and ties and dresses on their way to the Bible Conference, but God was at work in the hearts of my parents and I will always thank God for them and try to do with my life what they have done with theirs.
June 18, 2019