My former pastor, the man who has influenced me the most throughout my spiritual journey, passed away this morning at 9:00 am after a very long battle with cancer.
Here he is with his family. He was recently honored by Brite Divinity School with the Distinguished Minister Award for Pastoral Ministry. A Brite alumnus, he retired from the ministry a few years ago, but remained actively involved in the community of faith.
I cannot tell you precisely how old he was, because to me his was timeless. He called himself "preacher." My children (and his grandchildren) called him "Pops." I worked for him at Handley Meadowbrook Christian Church (now known as Trinity Christian Church) in Fort Worth when the Not-So-Little One was a baby. She went to work with me every day, and she spent as much time in Pops' office as mine. Working at the church was a real growth experience. Working with Bob was a gift.
Bob may not have been the most eloquent speaker ever to grace a pulpit. Sometimes his sermons rambled a bit. There are many anecdotes about misspeak on Sunday mornings - "lights of boltning" was my favorite. He always had a terrific sense of humor about it, which is good, 'cuz those little old ladies sure do like to rib the preacher.
He may not have been the most passionate pastor to cross the church's threshold. Hell, fire, and brimstone weren't a major theme in his sermons. Love was. He was soft spoken. He was not the guy to light a fire under someone's behind if something needed doing. He delegated that job to more outspoken board members.
He may not have been those things, but Bob was REAL. He laughed easily, got mad about stuff, ranted about people, worried about money, stood up for the ones he loved. It was not unheard of for him to use a little colorful language if he was fired up about something. He didn't judge, 'cuz he knew he wasn't perfect. He knew his bible and he loved his Lord. And he genuinely loved people.
I really got to know Bob at the rehearsal dinner for my good friends Sam and Kim. He and his wonderful wife Maida were sitting across from me at Razoos. The Jimmy Buffet song Margaritaville was playing, and Bob knew every word. How do I know this? He was singing along.
Once when I was explaining to him that my father preferred to spend Christmas alone rather than with us, Bob became outraged. He flatly declared that my father had no idea what he was missing and informed me that I didn't need him anyway. He told me that he would be my dad and Pops to my girls. It was overwhelming, and I'll never forget it.
I called Bob the day I decided to leave HMCC and pursue my calling as a music minister at another church. It felt like I was moving out of my parents' house and striking out on my own. He didn't try to talk me out of it. He told me how proud he was of me. And we cried. We cried and cried.
Today I rejoice in the fact that he is finally free. And I cry.