How do you write your final article for the church where you have shared twenty-eight years—almost half of your entire life? How do you say “good bye” when nothing but tears are availa-ble? If I try to begin naming names, the bulletin is simply not big enough. If I try to thank everyone who has shared in and blessed our lives, there are not enough words to express our appreciation.
As I reflected over the years, my mind went back to the first article I ever wrote for our newsletter. It was dated May 7, 1990 and it was entitled “What A Wonderful Beginning!” June, Robert, Kyle and I had moved (with the help of Charles Bearden and Mike Cox) to Nashville and my first day at Northside was April 15th of that year.
The article began “Words cannot describe the sincere apprecia-tion my family feels for the reception we have received from the Northside family. I was told by several that the Northside congrega-tion was just like family and now I understand why. While moving is always a distressful time, your acts of kindness have made our move very pleasant and, more importantly, encouraging in regards to our hopes, dreams and prayers for what lies ahead.”
Initial impressions are not always accurate, but they do tell us much about ourselves and our relationships with others. While you have been trying to figure out just who and what this young man from Mississippi is all about (and good luck), I have been ‘sizing up’ the Northside church…
Perhaps more than anything, I have been impressed by the po-tential for good which is evident in the Northside congregation. There is no doubt that God has great things in store for His family here. I just pray that we can pull together to make His dreams and plans for us a reality.”
Twenty-eight years later, I still believe every word I wrote on May 7, 1990—except the part about a YOUNG man from Mississippi. I’m not quite that young any more. Black hair has been replaced with grey hair and in some places no hair at all. Small children have been replaced with grand-children (and the incredible joy that brings). Eleven years of marriage have been replaced with 39 years of marriage and the depth of love for June that only time and God can bring. A large building has been replaced by an even larger building and families with deep roots at Northside have been replaced with families with brand new roots.
I have conducted over 210 funerals of Northside members, visited the hospital to welcome countless new babies to our church family, baptized so many into Christ and pronounced many of you as “husband and wife!” And while all of these moments were filled with incredible emotions from great joy to incredible sadness—I was honored to be a part of each one.
I finished that first article so long ago with these words, “I look forward to closer friendships and greater service together as we work side by side at this place to bring glory, honor and praise to Him for whom we live, work and serve.” June and I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to do just that. May God bless each of you richly.