Saturday, December 20, 2008


Jim's reference for ministerial credentials set on my desk. I had led he and his wife, Wanda,  to the Lord many years ago after they attended my first church service as the new pastor of Bartow First Assembly of God. I visited them in their home that first week after my first sermon there, and I remember the openness and receptivity they had to my visit and the hunger that seemed to be in their hearts to have more of God in their lives.

I was about to leave their house when a small voice inside me said, "Ask them if they would like to invite me into their hearts. They want me in their lives."

"Would you like to invite Jesus into your hearts," I asked?

Jim spoke up and they both nodded yes.

They repeated the sinner's prayer and you could see an instant change in their countenances. They were saved, believers, born again and you could tell it. There were tears streaming down their cheeks and you could see the difference in them.

Now years had passed and Jim was ready to retire and follow the Lord in missions work overseas. I looked long and hard at that reference form and with joy and thanksgiving. Jim and Wanda had made a difference for Jesus. They had faithfully served the Lord and raised there two children to serve Him. It was easy to fill out his reference application. I knew him as a young believer. I had discipled him and Wanda. I had watched them serve as some of the most faithful church members you could ever hope to have in your church.

And now at retirement Jim wanted to use the remainder of his life to serve Jesus by helping people in foreign lands find the Lord. You have to know that holding that application made me feel like my efforts as a pastor had made a difference. I felt that I had done something significant and it made me want to keep up my efforts for the Kingdom.

Quickly I checked off the app. with top scores. Jim had it. He had it together. There were no questions or reservations in filling out a reference for this man. I had filled out and graded hundreds of applications as the chairman of the credential screening committee for our state denomination, but this was the easiest one I had ever filled out or graded.

A few months later, the phone rang and Jim was on the line.

"Hey, preacher," Jim said. "How about making a trip to minister in Cuba with me and our church? You have been down there, haven't you? We'd like for you to help lead a group of men from our church. What do you think," He asked?

I agreed to go with his group, but later my life took another turn and I became pastor of my present congregation and didn't think that a mission's trip at that time was going to work for me. I called Jim and told him that I would have to pass on his trip to Cuba and that later we might could do something together.

That was my last conversation with Jim. We never got to talk again.


My cell phone rang as we pulled out of the hotel in St. Petersburg, FL where we had just enjoyed a weeks vacation. The person on the end of the line from my church office said someone in Bartow had died and they said I needed to call them.

"Someone named Jim had died," the caller said.

"Wait a moment," I responded. "Let me pull my car off to the side of the road. You said Jim died. It can't be. Jim can't be dead."

But he was. He wasn't feeling well at work and slumped over and had a heart attack. Kristy and I drove straight to Bartow and met Wanda and her children, Mark and Jennifer, and their spouses.

I looked at Wanda and saw brokenness, shock, and sorrow. Her tears of grief are even now etched in my mind. This was such a fine family. They lived right. They did right. They deserved better. Jim was a great christian gentleman. How could this be? Why did it have to be? They shouldn't have to go through this.

The next day I stood with Mike, Jim and Wanda's pastor, and helped preach Jim's funeral.
That was five years ago.
Sometimes, life isn't fair.


Tomorrow, another page will turn.


At 7:38 AM, Blogger kate said...

God is good! Real good...

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

My heart just broke reading this post. Jim was such a good person. My heart hurts for Mark and Jennifer, it must have been such a shock. I can't even imagine what they all went through.

With mom we had so much time. Time that was ever ticking away and heart wrentching to watch GBM destory her body. But we had time to say our goodbyes.

All we can do with such hurt and pain is turn to Him. Only in His arms can we survive such a storm.

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN, Jennifer.
I didn't have a goodbye when my mother was taken suddenly. Just a phone call. Shock.

Every goodbye is tough, no matter how the person leaves, but God inches us through it and brings us out intact on the other side.

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust him at his word.

I am in tears, I lost my father that fast and it was so heart wrenching. I still have not gotten over it 4+ years later. I never had the faith and trust that you & your girls have. I never turned it over to Jesus. I think that if I had, some of my wounds would have healed by now.

Your family is teaching me many good things about the grief process even as you live it.

You are such a good man.
God bless you.

At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bro Milton & family, You continue to be in our prayers. We hope you will seriously consider grief counseling before entering into a life time commitment. (This, of course, is not meant as an offense to your new love.)A part of the grieving process is denial. It's preferrable to take a year or so to sort through your emotions. If the Lord has ordained a union between you and your new love, nothing and no one can close that door. However, the less baggage the better when entering a marriage.


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