Archives For Friends

Scott

July 27, 2019

Our friend, Scott, died unexpectedly on Monday. The service was today (Saturday). We were coming to Henderson anyway this weekend and I was honored to be able to offer the eulogy at the service today. Rev. Eric Hoey and Scott’s congregation (my “home” church) did a beautiful job with his Home-going and it was my privilege to be there with them.

Here are the words I wrote and tried to speak today:

DE901E0E-7E24-45E0-99FB-8B6124667903

I sincerely wish I didn’t have a reason to be standing here today, but know that it’s my great honor to be able to share some words about my friend, Scott. My name is Becky Durham, and I was the youth director here at this church for 18 years, until we moved to North Carolina last summer.

Scott was a faithful attender of Sunday worship all those years and plenty before that, sitting next to his grandmother, and for most of the time I knew him, sitting in a back pew near his dear friend Willie Ann Brock. 

After Scott left his job at Evansville ARC, I got to know him well because he started coming to the church on a near daily basis. He was here so much, he became an honorary member of the church staff—but you know, like an intern, because it was an unpaid honorary position. He was even invited to staff birthday celebrations, and we started throwing parties for him each July, too. And any time we were planning on grabbing lunch somewhere, someone usually called “Spanky”’ to see what he wanted. When he was in the building, Scott could usually be found wherever our Custodian, Dave Beshear (Gov) was working. Those two could stir up all kinds of hilarity together, and I could usually find them by just following the laughter, and sometimes the trash talk.

323C25B6-E73E-4CFD-8A4D-2D60DDDBCE7D

Scott liked movies and he loved fishing. He hated cold weather and he loved UK basketball. If you were friends with him online, you know he commented about both of those things regularly. I mean, sometimes from his comments you weren’t exactly sure that he loved UK basketball, but I believe he was pointing out any flaws because he knew they weren’t always living up to their full potential and he wanted them to be the best they could be.

That’s what Scott wanted for anyone actually. He was kind and gentle with people, whether they were family members, friends, church leaders or community leaders, strangers he met along the way, and he wanted them to be the best they could be. If he was frustrated or upset with someone, it was because he knew they could do better or be better.

Sometimes people didn’t take the time to get to know him, and they made assumptions about him, and that frustrated Scott. people often treated him like he was stupid, for example. They would speak loudly or slowly to him. Or they would assume he needed help when he didn’t. Sometimes he would tell me about an interaction with a child, often while he was working at Walmart, and he felt it was obvious adults still weren’t doing enough to teach kids not to stare or make rude comments, or to accept differences in general. 

Scott was a lot of things, but he was not stupid. He was proud of his education, and how he used it for so many years to help adults with different abilities find jobs. He thought deeply about a lot of things and he was pretty good at pointing out BS when he heard it.

Scott loved his friends. Nothing made him as happy as having an event with friends on his calendar. Some of you here today were part of the group he loved going bowling with. Or maybe you met up with him at Rookies on a Saturday night. Or you were part of the group he did men’s retreats with. Or maybe you were the reason I was wrapping presents with him on a Christmas morning a couple years ago—he was so excited to be invited to a Christmas celebration in your home, that he sheepishly appeared at our door with a shopping bag and roll of wrapping paper. “Do you have any tape?” He asked. “I really want these presents to look good.”

A37246D2-5EBB-48A0-8033-202985BCED25

If you included him, invited him, called him, wrote him a note, he felt really special and that mattered to him. Scott was proud of his friends and he was loyal to them.

Scott never wished anything bad for anyone. He knew relationships are complicated, and he navigated them with hope and assumptions of good intent. If you are here this afternoon, wishing you had done better by Scott or regretting something you did or didn’t do, I know he wouldn’t want you to sit with those feelings any longer. He really believed you always did the best you could.

He loved Wednesday night suppers here at the church. Well, at least he loved them until 6:55, when he would sneak out the door to get home in time for the opening credits of Survivor.

He served on the Session here—which is the church board for any of you who speak Baptist or whatever. It frustrated him when the process was slow and the meetings were long. Scott was a man of action! Something needs done? Why isn’t someone doing it already, for goodness’ sake?

He got to the point where he felt comfortable sharing in some of the worship leadership here. He began volunteering to be the liturgist in the service, which meant he had a good deal of reading to do on those Sundays. He would show up early and practice hard. Now if you’ve ever read aloud from the Bible in church, you know that sometimes you hit a tough word. I remember a Sunday morning a few years ago when Scott was tasked with reading the name “Melchizedek.” During practice, it was not going well. I mean that’s a hard word. I’ve been to seminary, and I practiced saying that name before I got up here this afternoon. “Just say ‘Big Papa M,’” I suggested. He rolled his eyes at me and told me he was going with “Mickey” instead. “I’m pretty sure his friends didn’t call him ‘Mel-whatever-it-is,’” he said. As usual, he had a point.

Scott had a flair for drama—as in acting, I mean. He loved to be part of a dramatic production here at the church. On a Maundy Thursday night several years ago, he played Peter, while our pastor at the time, John Guthrie washed his feet, pouring water from a pitcher into a basin and then placing Scott’s feet in the water. I’m not sure whose idea it was to put ice in the water that would be used that night……., it might have been John, or it might have been Gov, but either way Scott was a good sport who loved a good joke…and we told that story all the time.

4C98DF7B-5D25-43F0-84E3-0552FEFF7EC4

He and Gary Thomas, a good friend, would play the disciples Pete and Andy, putting on two man dramas about different events in Jesus’ ministry with his disciples. Scott would rehearse for hours, determined to hit every line just right. He loved having lines that would get the big laughs, and he was proud to be part of leading worship.

One of Scott’s favorite scriptures was found in Luke 13, when Jesus heals, on the sabbath, a woman who had been bent over without the ability to straighten her back for 18 years. He related to this woman, he said. And sometimes he and I would talk about it and he would wonder why Jesus hadn’t healed him. He wasn’t questioning God…just wondering when his time with a body that didn’t work the way he wished it would might be over and he could be healed too. He wasn’t bitter about it, you understand. I think he just wanted to know someone believed with him that it might happen. 

I believe he’s been healed completely and freed from the shaking and struggling that he accepted as his daily challenge. 

He preached a sermon here once. He talked about the joy of belonging, the great feeling of being known and loved. He had such a strong faith in a God who knew him and loved him completely all the days of his life. And he believed his church was like that too.

C9661EA8-9142-4E32-8BDD-88DAB5042621

As part of his sermon, he played the theme song from the sitcom cheers. “Where Everybody knows your name” by Gary Portnoy. He and I found it together, and it was several years ago, and I don’t remember how we were able to handle that feat technologically. I would guess that we found the song online and burned it to a CD. He was so frustrated, whatever the means we used, that the version we found had more verses than what played as part of the theme song. For example the second verse talks about an unpaid light bill someone being stood up at a wedding, and the third verse references someone’s husband wanting to be a girl. “I just don’t think that’s necessary,” he argued with me.

But The part Scott wanted to play that morning, maybe you know it too. It goes like this:

Making your way in the world today

Takes everything you got

Taking a break from all your worries

sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You want to be where you can see

troubles are all the same

You want to be where everybody knows your name

You want to go where people know

The people are all the same

You want to go where everybody knows your name

(words by Gary Portnoy)

 

New

December 20, 2018

In my denominational tradition, stoles are worn by pastors to symbolize the yoke of Christ. Although they can be worn by those are commissioned or ordained to offices besides Minister of Word and Sacrament, I decided not to wear a stole until my ordination this past summer.

I started my new call at Peace Presbyterian Church and my career as an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in Ordinary Time.  My first Sunday in the pulpit, I wore my white Communion stole. But after that, except for another Communion Sunday and Reformation Sunday, I’ve been wearing my two Ordinary Time stoles every single Sunday

I know what you’re thinking, y’all. 

Oh my goodness. The horror. What trials and tribulations this pastor has had to endure as she suffers for Jesus with her two Ordinary Time stoles for five whole months. 😴

Fair enough. And it’s not really about the stoles, obviously. 

But the first Sunday of Advent I wore my purple stole, and it was so fun. I really do love the vestments that go along with my calling and I’m so blessed to have so many beautiful ones already.

Like the one I wore last night:

My new-to-me Bethlehem stole, gifted to me by my retired pastor friend, Roberta on the occasion of my ordination. It sparkles.

For my ordination, you might remember that Roberta sent me several of her beautiful stoles.

The stoles given to me by Roberta. 

The promise of something new coming is sometimes enough to get us through the difficult, the sorrow-filled, the mundane, the ordinary days and times. Sometimes all we have to cling to is the promise that God is making all things new.

Revelation 21:1-8

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;* 
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless,* the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’

We took a six-day trip home to Henderson so Jason could participate in the Art Hop (it was his best show ever) and so I could participate in the Leslie Newman for District Court Judge election day festivities (Judge Newman will be sworn in early January).

We ate so much food.

And hugged so many people.

And soaked up every moment of being with people who know us and love us so well.

But now we’re back home in Fayetteville. It’s funny how home can be two places for us now.

 

The Last Night

June 25, 2018

It’s ten minutes after midnight. I am tired enough to be asleep, but instead, I sit at the table, still in our house in Henderson, surrounded by boxes, packed and sealed and ready to travel tomorrow.

For the last two weeks and then some, Jason and I have been the recipients of many well wishes, words of kindness and encouragement, goodbye parties, “last” meals, surprise visits, a specially themed Toastmasters meeting, warm hugs, incredibly thoughtful gifts, written notes, and so much goodness and love. My instinct has sometimes been to stop the outpouring, to say, “We don’t have to do this now” or “this is too much to take in.” Instead, I’ve tried to let those words wash over me, to hear every one, to receive every kindness and gift and hang onto them for the days ahead…and to say the words I need to say, too. Mostly, all I can manage is “I love you.” If I say all the words I want to say, I dissolve into a puddle of messy, ugly tears and can’t finish saying anything. Some of you know–you’ve seen it firsthand.

I know two things.

Our lives are filled with the very best people and we love each of you so much. Both Jason and I are better for being known and loved by you.

That we will continue to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, because God, who promised, is faithful.” (Hebrew 10:23)

We mean it about the guest room. I have a whole google calendar now devoted to scheduling your visits.

I also mean it about the beach. If you vacation on the coastal Carolina beaches and don’t call us to come visit you there, I’ll unfriend you*.

*I’m kidding. Probably.

Ordination

June 20, 2018


Approximate time markers:

5:30–Welcome

18:00–Choir Anthem

24:00–the Children’s Sermon

31:00–Eric’s Sermon

58:30–Reaffirmation of Baptism, Ordination vows

1:07:30–Laying on of hands and prayer

1:11:40–Jason gets a gift for “ministry”

1:13:00–Renee gives the Charge to the new pastor

1:25:00–Charge and Benediction

 

Or

“How to Break into the Youth Director’s Office When the Keys are Missing”

This is the last sermon I preached as a commissioned ruling elder, a youth director, and a non-Minister of Word and Sacrament.

Psalm 9:1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.


 

(Recorded at Presbyterian Church of Henderson, June 10, 2018 at the 10:30am worship service.)

Graduation

May 23, 2018

May 19, 2018, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary


#Comfort

December 19, 2017

I feel like the photo would be enough for this one.

There’s just something about a pot full of soup when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer and Advent is moving along at a too-fast pace. On a day when there’s just been too much bad news this week.

For me, this soup is a big ole pot of comfort. Especially because I got to share it with some people I love.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 3-7

#Might and #Carry

December 17, 2017

We have ten year-old Nelson staying with us for a few days while his mom had his newest baby sister, Kyah.

He came over on Thursday night…so here it is Sunday morning and I’m just getting it together to post photos for the last two days. We are a little bit out of practice when it comes to having a 10 year-old around. We have had a good time together.

On Friday, Jason took Nelson climbing and he climbed to the top of the wall at Vertical Xcape several times. What a mighty kid!

Yesterday, before visiting his mom, dad, and sister at the hospital, we stopped and picked up 8 blankets for a friend’s blanket drive. Nelson insisted on carrying them through the store, to the car, and up to the house where they were being delivered.

Get you up to a high mountain,
   O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
   O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
   lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
   ‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
   and his arm rules for him;his reward is with him,
   and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;  he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
   and gently lead the mother sheep. (Isaiah 40:9-11)

#Kindles

December 5, 2017

If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! (James 3:3-5)

Today I did something fun.

This afternoon, I met my friend Lawrence at The Creme, a coffee shop in Owensboro, and listened to him talk. To be transparent, as I was also transparent with him, the purpose of our meeting was for me to fulfill requirements of a scholarship application, to listen to him speak about subjects he and I do not agree about and truly listen to what he had to say about them without trying to influence his opinion or insert my own (and then write an essay about that). That may have been the purpose, but the benefits included I got to drink coffee and spend time with Lawrence and learn a little about who he is what he believes in an environment that was not facebook and with true intention of hearing what he had to say.

Here’s the thing: our tongues are killing our relationships. When we verbally distill each other down to the worst caricature possible, when we would rather talk about someone than to someone, when we are more interested in getting our own words out than hearing the words of others, we are not focusing on the opportunity we have to truly know each other and hear each other. When we seek to somehow advance our own images rather than seek to see the image of God in each person around us, we can do a lot of damage.

“Behold a small fire–such a great forest it kindles!” James 3:5 (my meager translation of the Greek.)

I took the picture posted here in the bathroom at The Creme. I thought the “Love one another” sign was a good reminder of why I had come there and that the “poop” sign was pretty unique.