I have often said that if I could simply spend all my days visiting with people and drop the rest of my responsibilities as pastor, I would be just as content as I am today. Not being able to visit people was probably the most difficult part of the pandemic for me. So it gives me great joy to be back “on the road again” visiting people in their homes.
That Willie Nelson song was also our theme back in 1981 as we moved from Detroit to the seminary in Saint Louis on a hot Memorial Day weekend. We packed up our possessions in an old red farm truck, having rented our home in Detroit to a couple who have since become special friends, and headed south. Monica, baby Matthew, and my mom were in our orange Nova. My dad and I slowly trudged behind in the truck (think Beverly Hillbillies).
This was long before cell phones, so we had arranged to meet after we crossed the Indiana border. There was only one problem. The ladies remembered the meeting point to be the first rest area after the state line, but the men stopped at the first exit. After waiting an impossibly long time, the three in the Nova concluded we had missed the first rest area and headed for the second. About the same time the farm truck drivers decided to drive from the first exit to the first rest area.
It was when we each reached this second stopping point that panic began to edge in. I found a pay phone and eventually was telling the State Police our dilemma. They said about the only thing they could do was forward my call to the pay phone at the next rest area. The phone rang and rang and rang. I just prayed that someone would answer and say, “Yes, I can see an orange Nova in the parking lot.” Imagine my reaction … relief … joy … emotions … when it was Monica herself who answered the phone. We cried, and then relaxed, and then dad and I jumped back in the truck. The episode added a few hours to an already long day, but at least we were “on the road” again heading for a happy ending to the day.
I always felt like that was both extra confirmation and affirmation – confirmation that going to the seminary was the right decision and affirmation that God was going to be with us in this endeavor over the years to follow.
A word of the Lord that sustained us then is one that I am sharing in homes this week as I am back “on the road again.” “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3.22-24) These words hold true no matter if we are in a pandemic, getting out of one, or re-entering!
As I got back “on the road again” this week, I found myself over-booked on Monday, getting so far behind that I had to postpone two of my six stops. Yesterday I was five for six, with one cancelled by a sign saying, “This facility is temporarily closed to visitors while a worker is being tested for covid.” I had planned to visit four homes today, but one has requested a delay. The week is to conclude with three more on Friday. In other words, I hope to be singing with Willie all week long.
I always bring a hymn to sing at these visits. I tell people, “Some dogs howl. Some people fall asleep. But I keep singing.” The hymn this week – no, to the best of my knowledge it has not been recorded by Mr. Nelson – is “Earth and All Stars.”
So, while a different refrain may have been ringing through your head while reading this, the true refrain – yes even from 40 years ago – goes like this: “He has done marvelous things and I will praise him with a new song.”