Beginning in 1974, I preached for the Cedar Grove congregation just outside of Rogersville, Alabama, on Snake Road. I have some absolutely wonderful memories attached to the people that made up that church, and those memories have made indelible marks on my life. Often, I hear preachers talk about the way that churches have treated them, and I guess that I have really been blessed. 99.9% of the time, churches treated me far better than I ever deserved, and the Cedar Grove church was one of those churches!
For the 3 1/2 years that I preached for that church, I was a single man living in the church parsonage. I was 23 years old when they hired me, and I still had a lot of growing up to do (maybe some day I will be grown up). They tolerated my stupidity, mistakes, and the incompetence that I demonstrated on more than one occasion. I was blessed that they had a lot of patience with a young preacher, that at times did not know which way was up. There have been many occasions that I wished I had done a better job for them, had been a better minister, and done more good in the community. There are probably still times, when if there is a group of them sitting around discussing “old times”; my name might come up — and the discussion might begin with “can you believe that he …”
It has been 40 years since I left Cedar Grove, and, sadly, I have not been back over a half-a-dozen times (the last time this past March). It is amazing to me, the reception that I get every time. When I walk through the doors, I can feel the love from those that are still there. At the Harding Bible Lectureships, that I attended about 2 weeks ago, I ran into one of the elders, Randy Baker. He made the comment, that he was going to talk to the other elder, Richard McLemore, and try to arrange to have me speak at one of their annual homecomings. I hope that we can work that out, because on the list of blessings that my God has given to me, the people of that church are way up on that list.
I would like to list the names of the people that touched my life, but I would forget someone — and that would just not be right. But this morning, as I was reading in James 4, I was reminded of that church, and one Christian sister in particular. Listen, to what James has to say:
Come now you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, HCSB)
I don’t ever remember having a conversation with Marie Romine, that if a discussion came up about some future event, or if she was going to do something — that she did not add the words to the discussion “Lord willing.” As I remember it, it did not come across as just a habit; but as recognition that the Lord was in charge, and that we were totally dependent on Him.
There was a whole generation of children that grew up in that congregation, that were in Ms. Marie’s Sunday morning Bible class. I’m sure that many of them could share memories of what they learned, and what they remember, from that Bible class. She was just one of those ladies that you don’t forget easily. I remember what a good cook that she was, because she had sympathy for the single preacher; and quite often fed me the Sunday meal. I also remember that she had the best “sweet tea” that I ever tasted, my mouth still waters as I think about it.
But this morning, I can see and hear her saying “Lord willing.” The lesson that she taught me, by saying that as often as she did, made the words of James jump off the page at me. Lord, help me to remember that You are the creator of the universe, and it is all in Your hands; and that I am totally dependent on You. Thank you, Lord, for placing Marie Romine in my life; that would demonstrate to me the importance of doing that. Peace.