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Tom’s Legacy, the Light on the Hill, and the Waffle Story

November 16, 2014

I apologize for not writing sooner.  For some weeks I haven’t been able to write about our church family’s condition after Tom’s death.  I am not sure why; perhaps it’s a time of reflection that cannot be properly put into words.  Our senior pastor was dearly beloved, and I sense that as we move on, many of members have incubated their thoughts in  different ways.

His gravesite is in the memorial park within a mile of our church property.  Numerous church members visit there on a regular basis; one man, I am told, takes a folding chair each week in order to sit, reflect and pray.

We continue to move ahead, carefully and deliberately.  People are assisting the church staff wherever possible.  Leaders of the church rotate the Sunday sermon duties.  Rob spoke about God’s blessing in adoption and foster parent ministries.  Eugene talked about the wonder of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice.  Bob encouraged us to recognize the power of the living Word of God to reach children and adults alike.

The Search Committee is organizing its steps in seeking a new pastor.  Here in itself is the tight-wire act of timing.  If you rush the proceedings, emotion may be too strong of a catalyst and you may bring in a pastor who is not a good fit for the congregation.  Take too long, and you might grow weary in the process, bringing about frustration.  In the past, I have been in the extreme end on both of these situations and neither turned out well.

We’ve been busy, that’s for sure, and I mean that in a positive way.  We’ve had fun.  Most recently we’ve enjoyed our annual Fall Festival – it’s an all-church gathering that includes a chili cook-off, a pie-baking competition (oh, how heavenly were the pies!), and a variety show.  Frank Price won the best chili, Ron Hess made the best pie, and the variety show stage was covered with the remnants of slapstick comedy:  whipped cream, water, exploded balloons and overturned chairs.  We had a blast.1

We heal.  We grow.  We learn.

We meditate on Tom’s teachings from Jesus.  Many are the folks who are listening to recordings of his messages over the years.  Tom pointed us to Christ, constantly showing us the truth of James 1:22, that we should be doers of God’s Word, not just hearers.

We also saw Tom’s life principle as found in Christ’s teaching on the Mount:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  (Matthew 5:14)

Tom showed us that as Christians we were shining the true light of Christ and as such, we would be seen by people near and far.  In a sense, we go to church to learn to use Christ’s light as we keep the city aglow for people to see His salvation and come to safety out of the wilderness.  The question for us was whether we were allowing the light to shine properly.

And that’s what takes me to the thought today.  What have we been learning lately?

We are learning the power plant’s switches, gears and knobs that makes this Light shine steadily in our personal lives. 

We don’t want a blackout or even a brownout.  We want to be proactive in showing the community our Savior.  We want to love and serve.

As individuals and as a corporate body, we’re realizing the great challenge of putting our faith into action every day.  Sure, we head to church faithfully and fill up every neural nook and cranny with Bible verses – we’ve been in that habit for years.  The challenge is for us to use this Biblical knowledge, and use it well.

It reminds me of a time decades ago when I was a youth pastor here in Knoxville.  Finishing a hospital visit on a Friday mid-afternoon, I decided to pop in to a local waffle-making establishment and grab a coffee while I looked over my notes for an upcoming meeting.  It was about two o’clock – not many cars in the parking lot.  I took a choice spot near the door and headed inside.

Then … I stopped at the first entrance before opening the door.  In the past, I had always noted the cooks and waitresses in this location being extremely busy, moving about and chatting.  I didn’t see that here.   The three workers were standing stock-still, staring at me.  None of the usual friendly greetings.  They stood behind the counter, wide-eyed.

I held my place in the doorway.  This looked too suspicious.

“What’s going on?” I asked as I stood on the threshold.  My thought was that this was a robbery, and the thief was hiding underneath the counter so as to be unseen from the parking lot.  These were the days before cellphones, so I prepared to dash back to the parking lot and get help.

Their eyes didn’t register fear, though.  Their gaze was blank.

“Andy fell,” said a waitress.  Simply that.

“Andy fell.”

I edged in, looking around.  “Who’s Andy?”

A tall cook pointed to the floor.  “Right here.  Andy just walked in and fell.  About a minute ago.”

I moved around along the side of the counter and looked.  Sure enough, there was a thin fellow in a restaurant uniform, laying flat on the ground, facing the ceiling.  He was unconscious.

I knelt down beside him and checked his pulse and breathing.  “Did he trip?”


I saw no blood.  Heart attack?  Seizure on the way?  I leaned in close to his face.  “Can you hear me, Andy?”  He groaned.

I looked up to the three employees.  “Have you called an ambulance?”

The cook never moved.  The waitress slowly shook her head.  “No.”

I gestured with my head.  “Get to a phone and call 911.”

They all stared at me.  Nobody moved a muscle.

1Andy moved his head slightly and moaned.  I repeated my instruction.  “Get to a phone and call 911.  He needs help.”

No reaction.  None of them moved an inch.

I shouted.  “Get to a phone and call 911.  Right now!  Call 911!”

One waitress moved as if in slow motion, but she finally headed toward a phone and called for help.  Soon an ambulance arrived and Andy was assisted.  He had suffered a blackout; the poor fellow had been working two jobs, and I found out he had been on a thirty-five hour stretch with no sleep.  He just flopped over from exhaustion.

Andy got his assistance, and I learned a lesson:

1. Those employees knew that there was a desperate need in front of them.

2. They had the resource (i.e., telephone) to take care of the need.

3. They knew how to use that resource.  Using a telephone is not difficult.  Dialing a number is not hard.

They had everything necessary to take care of the situation, yet they could not respond.  They froze.  I repeat:  they had everything they needed to handle an emergency, but they couldn’t bring themselves to respond. 

Don’t we have plenty of Bible teachers?  Bible commentaries?  Scripture classes?  Radio broadcasts of Biblical instruction?  Study Bibles?  Yes, we have a plethora of teaching materials…

…but we as Christians often freeze up in times of need.

Tom taught our church to be responsive and energetic, to act upon the opportunity for evangelistic outreach.  This is something we continue to learn.


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