Thursday, August 1, 2013
A Mess of Greens....
Summer always brings memories…the parades and crafts and pledges and prayers and songs of weeks spent in various-and-sundry Vacation Bible Schools…the peddler with his fresh vegetables and swinging scale and frozen Goo-Goos in a cooler of ice…trips to the ice house in Warrior…working in the garden with daddy. (Well, truth be told, daddy did most of the work—with hoe in hand and that ever-present Salem precariously dangling at the corner of his mouth—how he balanced it AND whistled remains one of the mysteries of life.)
One particular day…two of those summer constants—daddy’s garden and Vacation Bible School—came together to teach me a lesson about just how easy it is bless someone down to the marrow of their bones.
You see, when it comes to my church journey, those sweet years are filed away in my heart as “The Brother and Sister Thompson Years” at Kimberly Church of God.
I loved Brother Thompson...and Sister Thompson too, of course. But I L.O.V.E.D. Brother Thompson! (Was there anyone who didn’t?)
Truth be told, I don’t remember a single word from a single sermon he preached. What I DO remember is that those sermons were delivered with a passion his pulpit could not contain. Most often, he would take a microphone out of its stand and come down off that stage on floor-level with the rest of his little flock. He kept a handkerchief in one hand and would stop every now and then to wipe the sweat from his brow created by his deep emotions and passionate delivery. Brother Thompson had this beautiful, honey-coated voice…that would become wrung out with what I’ve come to realize was LOVE. (How funny—I remember all that…but none of his pulpit words.)
The words I do remember were ones he spoke to me one morning on the way to Kimberly Church of God Vacation Bible School. You see, during Vacation Bible School, Brother Thompson also drove the “converted” ramshackle school bus our church owned. He’d drive all across Kimberly and even into parts of Morris picking up children so they could heed our evangelistic parade appeal to “Come to Vacation Bible School!”
Me and my brother waited for the VBS bus in front of our house, where Stouts Road begins to curve to the right at Reno Street—not exactly the safest place for children to wait for a bus…but…I digress.
One particular VBS morning, I was the proud owner of a paper bag filled with a mess of turnip greens from daddy’s garden. Mama and I had been promising Brother Thompson we would bring him some, since they were known to be one of his favorites. (We promised...Daddy picked.)
As I stood there on the side of Stouts Road, I could hardly wait to give MY Brother Thompson that bag of greens…which—as I said before—I had NOTHING to do with growing or picking.
When that bus stopped, grinding out of gear, and Brother Thompson pulled that door lever open…I marched up those stairs and…with a toothless grin so big it made my pigtails hurt…I handed him that paper bag, announcing, “These are for you.”
And…his response was the only reward I needed. He kept that bus stopped…right there in the middle of that Stouts Road curve...pulled me into his arms, gave me a hug…started crying, and pronounced the most beautiful pastoral blessing I've ever received, "Brother Thompson loves you."
And THOSE are the words I remember.
For the rest of his days at Kimberly, whenever the occasion arose, he’d tell people about the morning he was driving the VBS bus…and saw this pig-tailed, snaggle-toothed-smiling girl holding a paper bag filled with turnip greens.
You’d of thought that bag was filled with money, instead of a mess of greens. But I guess there are some things worth more than money.
That bag of greens still teaches me to this day—that even the smallest gesture (which we sometimes have very little to do with) can bless a heart.
Eventually, Brother and Sister Thompson went on to other churches in Alabama. But…not before they left an eternal mark on Kimberly, Alabama. Our dear Rudy Sandlin, who died a few months ago, once said about Brother Thompson, “If he can’t get you to Jesus any other way, he will just love you to Jesus.”
“Love you to Jesus…” What a legacy!
"Let me give you a new command:
Love one another.
In the same way I loved you
(said shortly after He had washed their road-dirty feet),
you love one another.
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
"Oh, Abba, when words fail, help me to just love them to Jesus."