|Many years ago I started a file I called “ticklers.” In it I keep some of the notes, letters, and cards I have received over the years that are affirming and supportive.|
As someone who has been labeled an “Eeyore” by more than one person, I often forget the gifts of encouragement I get, and focus instead on one or two complaints I have received. So I rummage through my ticklers file whenever I need an emotional pat on the back. Several times that file has saved me from throwing in the towel on ministry and taking a job as an aluminum siding salesman or parking lot attendant.
But now I have a problem. The beautiful notebook you presented to me on my tenth anniversary as your Senior Pastor is too big to go in my ticklers file. And it belongs in that file because I have never received so many good wishes, affirmations, and expressions of love at one time in my life.
Some of the notes are deliberately funny. A few of you even gave me some new jokes. Some of the notes are quite clever — such as the acrostics several of you made with my first and last names. Some of the notes are downright touching and when I read them I had to stop reading for a moment to collect myself.
|Most of the notes are handwritten, and I was delighted to see that a few of you have handwriting as bad as mine. (By the way, years ago someone told me that bad handwriting is a sign of high intelligence; I’m sticking with that.) A few of the notes were printed from a computer, one contains a photograph, and several include some artwork — even a depiction of Penny and myself as “American Gothic.” Kind of scary.|
Most of you said really nice things about my preaching, and there was one person who claimed to have never fallen asleep during a sermon of mine. Others thanked me for my sense of humor. Still others expressed appreciation for my teaching, particularly my emphasis on the Bible, and said I had helped them to grow spiritually. I was especially humbled by those sentiments.
With my sixtieth birthday looming in a few months I have had several people ask me how much longer I am going to keep working as a full-time pastor. None of those people, however, are members of FCC. Now I know why. This really is the best church south of heaven and north of hell.
Therefore, because I cannot make a notebook for each one of you, let me use this space to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Being your pastor, and your friend, is an absolute delight.
And the next time those dark voices start telling me to hang it up and run off with the circus, I will pull out my notebook and all will be well — whether I keep it in my ticklers file or not.