This day, October 25, 2000, began for me with a late start. The alarm had punctured my sleep forty minutes earlier, at 6:30, and I was again dozing. Sharon, my wife, was already up and my youngest, Adrienne, was going out the door to catch the bus for school. Coming into the bedroom, Sharon said good-bye and I pulled myself out of bed and into the shower.
The drive to the church is just a little more than a mile and the traffic on Wirt road was unusually heavy. There must have been an accident at Wirt and I-10, but Houston Mennonite Church, where I am the pastor, is on the right, a half-mile before I-10, so I don’t know what the problem is.
At the office, after checking the voice mail and finding no messages, retrieving the mail at the Monarch School office at the end of our parking lot, sorting it and placing it in the proper places, I re-read Jeremiah 31:7-9, my sermon text for next Sunday, as I often do mornings when I arrive. During my prayer and meditation time, my mind continued to wander and wonder about the future for my church and about my own future. These have been stressful days since my three-year contract is concluding. I have mixed feelings about continuing with the church here. These folks are wonderful people and at times I’m overwhelmed with love for them. But I also feel very ill-equipped to lead them. Going to seminary to hone my skills and gifts, I think may be best. Until 10:30, I wrestled with these thoughts, when the phone jolted me into the present. Someone is wanting to know what Mennonites believe. After a 15-minute conversation and an invitation extended to her to come and see, I turned to my prayer list. A wife suffering from spousal abuse and keeps returning. A woman with Alzheimer’s. A member whose uncle died. The man who came asking for money yesterday. My own scattered family. My own marriage in shambles. The person I counseled yesterday afternoon. Amen
I played two games of Freecell on the computer and called Admissions at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. No answer.
It was 11:30 and I needed to buy a battery for one of my motorcycles. I called the shop and they said they had one in stock. The drive around Houston on the Beltway taking me past the Astrodome, to South Houston on I-45 was a pleasant one. The warm air flowing through the open windows of my pickup. The sun shining and the traffic was moving.
Walking through the motorcycle showroom, I threw a lustful eye toward the leftover 2000 Triumph 955i sitting there calling out to me. But I didn’t catch the salesperson’s eye and kept walking. I bought the battery and drove the 33 miles home stopping for gas at the Conoco on Wirt Road. The battery is installed and the bike STILL won’t start!
I go to the bathroom and the toilet clogs and overflows! Not knowing what to do about it, I just walk away leaving the floor covered with dirty water.
Tomorrow I drive to Hesston, KS to meet with the South Central Mennonite Conference Executive Committee, of which I am one of the two the Mid-Texas representatives. So it is back to the church to write a last-minute report for the meeting. These trips to Kansas also allow me to spend time with our daughter, Danielle who is a sophomore at Hesston College.
At 2:30, just as I sit down at my desk to begin my report, the phone rings. I’m reminded that I must respond to the IRS concerning their questions about the 501(c)3 application for Ten Thousand Villages-Houston of which I am the President of the Board of Directors. Soon, I’m making some phone calls to find out how I need to respond to their questions. The questions are about half answered when the phone again interrupts my typing on the laptop on my desk.
This time it is a fellow pastor, and good friend I’ve known since my college days at Hesston. We talk about the stresses and some of the rewards of being a pastor, along with some of the things we are struggling with personally. Then he informs me, he’s quitting. Not just his church, but the pastorate itself. The hard work, long hours, and little encouragement from his congregation have caused him to throw in the cloth. We both pray for each other and hang up.
Back to the IRS and my laptop. There is a soft knock on my door. A young woman introduces herself as a neighbor who lives beyond the seven-foot high wood fence to the north of the church property. I sense she is trying to be friendly. She nervously tells me she has a deep concern. The parents of Monarch School children are making a u-turn on Wirt Rd. where it intersects with Hilshire Vil Lane, which is her street. U-turns in Texas are legal to do. This morning, as she pulled out and turned left, one of the parents wasn’t watching and almost caused an accident with her. She is worried about the kids in the cars and wants me to understand that what is happening is not safe. When I asked what she would like me to do, she said make the parents use a different route to school. After assuring her I would pass this information on to the school, to which I have no connection with other than the fact that the church owns their campus, she left hesitantly. I’m not sure she felt like she had convinced me of the danger.
I take another stab at the IRS. It is 5:00 and I’m not finished. My report for tomorrow’s meeting is hardly begun. I close the laptop, gather the files I need for the meetings in Kansas, shoving everything into my big carrying bag.
After stopping at the bank on the way home, I pull into the driveway at 5:30. Retrieving the church’s mop and squeeze bucket from the back of the truck, I head for the bathroom to clean up the mess. Adrienne is watching the Simpsons and as Sharon comes home from work she asks Adrienne to make diner. Tara, my middle daughter and her son, Bradley, come here after work. Diner is delicious. Beef and broccoli in a Chinese sauce.
The World Series is on. Game number four. It’s New York. The Mets and the Yankees. I watch Bradley and the Series until Tara and Bradley go home.
It is 10:18 and all is quiet. Another day is done.