We’re continuing our posts about the “equipping gifts” outlined in Ephesians: apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and evangelist.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ~Ephesians 4:11-16
In thinking about how to write about the Pastor aspect of the shepherd-teacher my mind (and heart) immediately went to my childhood Pastor, Bud Jones. In our current climate of car chases and explosions and the barrage of social memes and little mcnuggets of so-called cultural brilliance, Pastor Jones was not so much the antithesis to these things, but in some really important ways, a considered remedy.
We lost him to his next better chapter after a bout with cancer a couple of years ago, but believe me when I tell you that his impact will continue to ripple out through the generations until this age comes to an end.
The Pastor almost always brings their gift into another context, into someone else’s story. They insert a bit of peace, of stability, of perspective, and grace into the ongoing saga of our lives.
So, in a bit of a longer post and in a bit more narrative form than previously, here is my best expression of what a Pastor does from a biblical perspective.
The summer rain whispered like unexpected kindness, like a touch on the shoulder from an old friend. Gently I was surrounded by comfort, a welcome and cooling presence in what I could only describe as the heavy tightness of afternoon heat. High in the crook of my hiding place, the perfect seated branch of a mimosa tree, I closed my eyes and slept.
I awoke to a clear sky and a stab of fear as I considered my surroundings. Suspended more than twenty feet above ground I was seated in two twisting branches that formed into the shape of a perfect reclined position. With some relief I remembered where I was and that I was there on purpose. I just wasn’t used to waking up, in the open, that high off the ground.
I felt the damp of the two additional branches raised above my “seat” and decided it was time to return to earth. There were two paths: the boring, slow, safe one used by bureaucrats with no poetry in their soul and the good path. The good path was more dangerous in theory, but the sheer joy of it made it worth the risk. The good path had five steps. Step one was a long launch out to a neighboring branch where you jumped, grabbed and swung out and back (usually twice) until you got under control. The movement from steps two through five were easily swinging down branch to branch Edgar Rice Burroughs style until you were safely on Terra. Laughter and transcendental glory lived on the good path, just so you know.
I crouched. I leaped. I grabbed the "step one" branch and swung out all but horizontal as I had done a thousand times before.
I forgot that it had just rained.
And both of my hands slipped off the branch.
Cue the second stab of fear. Time slowed down and I was able to weigh my options. I was probably twenty-five feet up, horizontal, with my back to the ground and my eyes peering through the lightly filtered sunlight via leaves into an impossibly blue sky. My one chance was that I had some momentum, so I tucked into my very first aerial back-flip. The goal was to get feet toward the ground and a possible old school parachute roll. And, in my defense, for a first try, it wasn’t the worst effort.
Halfway through it occurred to me that I would likely land on my head and break my neck. I extended my arms and legs and twisted, trying to reverse my momentum. That also worked better than I thought and my feet were now coming under me as the ground was getting big in the window. I had over-rotated just a bit but I braced and was ready to try to roll into the impact as soon as I hit the ground. The only problem was, once again…
I forgot that it had just rained.
In my over-correction, my feet slipped on the grass bringing all the force of the fall and my spin onto my arm as I braced to try to catch myself. My left elbow pushed back into my hip and stopped violently. There was a loud crack, apparently I had landed on a branch hitting the ground. With a sharp exhalation, I rolled over onto my back. I remember the dampness of the grass, the blue of the sky. I remember the sound of our next door neighbor “Stoney” mowing his immaculate yard. After the earth-sky-earth-sky, and the literally unbelievable flurry of motion and confusion of the last 2 seconds, everything seemed preternaturally still. Well, I was still alive, so far so good.
My arm felt funny and I looked over to see how bad it was. My mind didn’t accept what I saw, so I lay back down. Then adrenaline did what it does and I looked again. In the middle of my arm between my wrist and elbow, was an ill conceived second elbow as my arm was broken in a right angle. Not a branch it turned out. I somehow managed to pick up what remained of my limb, carefully twisting my whole body to open our front door, and went inside. I remember being unusually calm (another two points for adrenaline) and with a matter-of-fact tone mentioned to my folks that my arm was broken and I needed to go to the hospital. The next couple of hours are a bit of a blur but I distinctly remember…
- how panicked my parents were and how quickly they were moving without seeming to go anywhere
- the policeman who pulled us over, took one look at my arm, then led us at high speed to the hospital
- the poor little girl who saw me at the entrance of the emergency room and her eyes went to Looney Tunes size…
- the doctor who saw me from across the room, pointed, looked back at his clipboard, and said, “get that gentleman some Demerol”… God bless him wherever he is right now
- the frown of the x-ray tech when he told me that he needed me to do a quick audition for Cirque de Soleil to get the scans he needed
- the relief I felt when they told me I needed surgery and wouldn’t be trying to set this while I was awake
I spent the longest three days of my life in the hospital bed afterwards. Those days stretched into years. So… very… boring. There was a crazy amount of pain that eventually required morphine to get under control. There was some amount of sadness when the doctor told me that I would likely lose a good bit of arm mobility and function. My parents were terrific and incredibly attentive throughout.
I settled into the routine of the hospital stay.
After a very rough night, I had a visitor around 11 am. It was my Pastor, Bud Jones, who might be the most saintly man I have ever known. He was a quiet man - and not to oversell it, he was Jesus to thousands of people over the course of his extraordinary life. Thinking about Bud, it occurs to me that we make statues of the wrong people for the wrong reasons.
During his visit I started laughing uncontrollably. I mean completely unhinged, can’t breathe, full-on-tears-level laughter.
To be clear, this was not my fault. I was flying on percoset. I was also triggered by the epic sound of the Squeaky Shoes. A lovely nurse who worked the morning shift had a pair of supportive white shoes that made the most fantastic sound. With every step, the shoes would squeak on impact on the tile ward floor, and then loudly squish in a squirting footstep with the following tone of something like a deep Louisiana muddy bayou swamp sucking sound. A sqworking, if you will. Perhaps an EEEekquishiblark if you catch my meaning. If I can’t reproduce, or describe the sound, I can still vividly remember it. You simply couldn’t have staged it better than the reality.
There wasn’t anything mean about my helpless outbursts, at least not in intent. I was not laughing AT her. I was narcotically laughing WITH her and her screamingly hilarious shoes. The sound was insanely loud and while a terrific nurse, she was apparently unaware of just how funny her shoes were. My theory is that she had gone a bit “ear blind” to her own sound palette at some point.
So Pastor Bud and I are in the room, being very appropriate, and kind, and spiritual. And here she comes. Her approach wasn’t a secret, she might as well have announced her presence at about 50 paces with an air horn. And I just lost it. I start giggling and progressed to guffawing, and from there to full on crying belly laugh. The Bible says that this kind of laughter does good like a medicine and I was all in.
She comes into the room and I am just howling. I would try to recover, but then she would move again and I had no chance at keeping anything approaching composure. Poor Pastor Jones is trying to not smile, or to egg me on any further, but my response was so over the top that he was forced to look away and laugh a bit like Harvey Korman on the old Carol Burnett skits with Tim Conway.
She said, “I just love this kid. He is SO happy every time I come into the room.” Bud is smiling and nodding and not touching that one with a ten foot pole. “He’s so happy, it’s just like sunshine.” And off she went to her next victim, swqork, swqork, swqork. The doppler effect up and down the hall just made it funnier.
Pastor came to visit me every single day over those three days and he was the only one who did. We got Squeaky Shoes on days one and three, with a “sqwork drive by” on day two. Outside of the shoe thing, I was lonely and hurting and bored and Bud’s visits were the highlight of my day. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of very kind people popped in to see how I was doing, many more than I would have expected. I appreciated them all.
But Bud came every day. Short, effective, kind visits where we just talked for a bit, then he prayed for me.
It was so consistent. It was deeply meaningful. It communicated a depth of selfless, authentic concern and follow-up that is all but lost in our culture today. I wasn’t out of the woods until I came home, so it was a given that Pastor Jones would come to see me. That’s just who he was. One of his sheep was hurt and he was checking in. I don’t think I ever told him directly how much that simple threefold act of kindness meant to me.
I also don’t think I can adequately describe how much this impacted my view of God and the quiet, immense, spiritual power of the Pastor Shepherd. But that won’t stop me from trying…
He was like the summer rain whispering ancient wisdom in unexpected kindness, like a touch on the shoulder from an old friend. In his godly presence, I was surrounded by comfort, a welcome and cooling wake in what I could only describe as the heavy tightness of the hospital ward. After his blessing, low in the crook of the convalescence of my motorized lee, I closed my eyes and slept.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.