The Choice to Obey – The Immediate Results #38

When we work at doing what is right before the Lord, we often make decisions according to God’s will without the conscious awareness that the decision we are making is being directed by the Lord. When we look back and see what God has done we smile…inside and out.

Our decision to personally purchase a piano to be used in the parsonage was a very easy decision…I do not remember any discussion or serious prayer about what to do. And God confirmed that our decision was pleasing to Him as He provided the money that we truly did not have. We looked back…and smiled!

When we work at doing what is right before the Lord, at the necessary time we make the best decision we can. Seldom if ever do we have the guidance of a dream, of a burning bush, of hearing God speak, or of handwriting on the wall. Most often God guides us through a gentle steady pressure within. External factors may help us focus on the right decision, but ultimately we make the decision on the basis of what we feel, what we believe God would have us do.

God’s guidance to get us to leave Bakerville, CT and to move to Murfreesboro, TN is an illustration of no specific factor in the decision. God knew our hearts and He kept the pressure on until we knew His. We were thankful and at peace when the decision was made, but I know we were not real happy about the direction God was taking us.

Sally Jo and I knew that before we announced our decision to the congregation, we had to tell one particular couple – so we planned to go with them on an overnight skiing trip. Without explaining the situation, we asked close friend Nancy if she would take care of our daughters, Carla -4 1/2 and Jenna – 2. Carla was very excited about spending an overnight with her best friend – whose mother happened to be Nancy! The plan was that we would return in the evening after the second day of skiing – and pick up Carla and Jenna the next morning.

During that night we received a telephone call from Nancy: “Carla has suddenly become very sick!” We got up and went over and picked up the girls. The next morning we realized Carla was becoming worse, running a high fever. A call to the doctor brought a quick visit to the doctor – and a quick trip to the hospital. Carla had spinal meningitis – the first case in four years in a four county area. In addition to medication, the hospital was putting Carla into cold water to keep her temperature down. The news was not good: Carla would likely die, and if she didn’t die she would likely be seriously disabled.

Sally Jo stayed with Carla. I was crying so hard when I drove the 20 minutes home to be with Jenna that I remember being barely able to see the road. And I remember thinking, “Lord, how can I be thankful for this?!!” About the only thing I could come up with was that we had enjoyed five wonderful years with this very bright, strong, happy child! It did not help that Carla loved to play in the cemetery…which was located behind our house! I was truly shaken. “Why Lord, after our decision to obey your tough request, did you let this happen?” I never have understood the answer to that question.

My dad used to say to me “never doubt in the dark what you saw in the light”. I tried not to. Carla lived – and lives with a nerve in the back of her neck that flares up whenever she gets over tired, over stressed – a weakness in her nervous system.

Several months later, on the morning the moving van was to come, Carla asked me if I would take her down to the pond one more time. We stood at the edge of the pond, hearing the water flow over the stone dam, watching a bird fly so close above the water that its wing hit the water and left a ripple. An incredible moment – and then Carla asked “Dad, why do we need to leave this beautiful place?” I had no answer!!!!!!!!!!

As we walked the short distance to our beautiful parsonage the tears were streaming down my face, even as they are right now. “Lord, this is not fair!!!” I knew I should not doubt in the dark what I saw in the light…but this was very dark.

My Toughest Decision – Ever!!! #37

When the new Bakerville parsonage was ready, the church family made short work of the move. I think the members of the congregation were as excited as we were. The new piano arrived and the snow began to fall. My family arrived so we could celebrate Christmas together: All 15 of us! None had seen the new parsonage and most had never been to Bakerville, never seen the historic looking church with the excellent pipe organ.

We caught up on each other, laughed, sang Christmas carols and ate incredible food…from my sister’s home near Boston, from a NYC deli – chosen by my brother and his wife, and the best we could buy in the local markets (dad paid!!). Mickey and Doreen, a couple in the church that owned an excellent Italian restaurant, brought us a meal – which we ate for 3 meals. Church members came with their snow mobiles to give us all rides. Sally Jo and I arranged a sleigh ride for our family. The day was crisp and clear. Two draft horses with bells pulled us around a high field in Litchfield, CT. A picture perfect experience.

The family left and our adrenalin stopped flowing. We were back to “business as usual” – which was 90% fun work. The people were the church, and they knew it! These were people who wanted to praise God, to learn, to grow and to serve the living God. These people cared about and for each other. They even came to church during two snow storms – on their snow mobiles. Yes, of course there were people and church problems, but we were personally growing.

And then…the phone call! “Chuck, you have been laboring outside of the bounds of Presbytery for 4 years. Would you consider becoming Presbyterian Minister to Students at Middle Tennessee State University, minister of education for three “city” churches and 5 small country churches – and preach each Sunday, rotating through the 8 churches? And you would need to put all this together.” The answer was quite easy: No. I mean why would we leave Bakerville, CT for Murphreesboro, TN to start all over again? And why leave people we really enjoyed, where Sally Jo had close friends for the first time since we were married in 1962? The Lord would not ask us to make our 4th move in 8 years.

I told Sally Jo about the phone call and my response. A couple weeks later, the phone rang again: the church group persisted: “Chuck, you have worked in the south, in Christian Education, and pastored a country church. Would you and Sally Jo be willing to come, see the situation, and share your thoughts? Is this a good idea? How it could work?” Sally Jo and I talked briefly and agreed to go for the visit. After meeting pastors, church elders, a group of university students and seeing church facilities, we met with several key people for an extended meeting. Our job was done. The next day we were taken back to the Nashville airport so we could return to the incredible beauty of a rural Connecticut winter. We could not wait to get back!!!! On the ride to the airport the same question was asked:”would we come?” “No”. “Would you at least pray about it?” How could we say no to that request?

After several days of internal struggle, I realized I must consider the invitation with an open mind. And I did – then quickly prayed:”Lord, you would not ask this of us…would you?” I tried to sort out the implications of our move. I remember standing in the parsonage study looking out the large windows to the little stream flowing through the snow. In Tennessee we would have to buy our own home in town, near the university. I realized we would have no church home in Tennessee. Ouch! Slowly I realized I had no choice”. To do what was right before the Lord, we most go”.

When I went upstairs to tell Sally Jo my decision, I was a basket case. None of me wanted to go…yet I knew. As I spilled it all out to Sally Jo she said “I knew we would be going when we got on the plane in Nashville”. “Why didn’t you tell me? You and your friends were a huge part of this painful struggle – how could I ask you to leave? Why didn’t you tell me you knew what we should do?”

“Chuck, this had to be your decision”. The decision was made!