Every now and then someone asks me the question, "What keeps you going?"
Perhaps they know of the personal challenges I've been through. Maybe they simply know of the work I do - or have done. Serving as pastor of a church is not easy. Working to maintain balance between the ministry of the church and the extended ministry to the community was exhilarating and, at times, exhausting.
Central Dallas Ministries provides work that is challenging in a number of ways. Realizing that each person we serve is representative of multiplied thousands whom other servant organizations are reaching. And those are representative of multiplied thousands who get little or no help. For five years at CDM, I've been engaged in work which is for me and my colleagues, fulfilling and frustrating. The work never ends, there is no such thing as enough money. The criticism can be as plentiful as the praise.
So, what does keep me going?
There are times when I go into what some friends of mine call 'preacher-mode'. That's when we clergymen and women speak in lofty, noble tones of the assurance of God's Presence and the Power of the Holy Spirit. It's not that its not true, but for ordinary people that can sometimes be inaccessible.
So, what keeps me going?
Saturday, after a week of courtrooms, lawyers and testimonies; a computer that had crashed and had yet to be replaced (another reason my posts haven't been regular); news of a former member who had died a couple of days before and a family requesting me to preach the funeral service, I decided to get out of the house.
I went to Wal-Mart (yes, I know, I know) for stuff that I really could have done without. While walking down one aisle, preoccupied with a number of what I'll call life's 'What ifs'.
I locked eyes with a tall, thin, white man with a Stetson hat and an irrepressible smile. He walked kind of jauntily and finally when we got close to one another he said, 'How're you doing young man?' I chuckled and replied, 'I'm doing alright how about you?'
'Fine, just fine.'
He still looked at me, as we were now stopped in the middle of the aisle, his companion, whom I assume was his wife going on with her shopping. Then he asked the oddest question.
'How old are you?'
'I'm 53', I told him.
'I 'bout got you double', he said. 'I'm 94!' We both laughed and I patted him on his shoulder and said, 'You ARE doing alright!' 'You bet' he said.
Later, at the same store, I ran into another minister I know. Years ago, he lost his church, organized another only to have that one to fail. I'd lost track of him and none of our mutual friends had mentioned him in years. When we saw one another he smiled with that familiar broad smile. He introduced me to his wife and we began talking about our work.
His wife works for one of Baylor Hospitals clinics in South Dallas. Together they had started a charter school. They knew of Central Dallas Ministries and I told them of the food pantry and how distribution there had just exploded. They asked about our move to 511 Akard, and I told them about the many miracles associated with how the funding came through, sometimes nearly at the last minute. Then we fell into talk of how much we had been blessed, and how we had seen God's Hand in our respective efforts.
On Sunday, I got to church late, but I got there in time enough to hear one of my favorite songs, "God Has Smiled on Me". The words are:
'God has smiled on me
He has set me free;
God has smiled on me,
He's been good to me...'
They were words I needed to hear at just the right time.
Chance encounters, with strangers and friends. Their smiles, their humor, the willingness to take the time to talk and be neighborly. They cheer the heart and lighten the burden just enough...
A song, that doesn't ignore life's problems or its pesky, 'What ifs', but which remind you that there is a transcendent and a persistent Goodness on which we can depend - even when we can't quite discern it.
That's what keeps me going!
So, what keeps you going?