Returning a few weeks ago from a trip to Texas for a speaking engagement at Baylor's Alleluia Conference, I mentioned making a couple of surprise connections. I told you about Karen in the Memphis airport. Here's a second:
Having spent a night with my long-time friend and college roommate in Fort Worth and anticipating my Tuesday mid-afternoon presentation at the conference, I needed a quiet hour to review my notes before heading south to Waco. Royce and Patti don't live far from Southwestern Seminary and summer school there is pretty quiet so that would be the spot. I walked around the campus in and out of a building or two before landing on the Student Center. Ah, here's a place over here out of the way and there's nobody here other than the large, and I do mean LARGE display of taxidermied game animals -- a bear or two, half-dozen antlered beasts, birds, lions, perhaps even a buffalo, and who knows what else. I mean, this was the real stuff, and it was on display encased in serious Plexiglas. What any of it remotely had to do with theological education or student life beats me. But, at least those things were quiet, they would mind their own business, and surely there wouldn't be any random NRA sightseeing tour here this next hour.
Heading to my scheduled table in the far corner, I did notice an office door open en route and someone sitting behind the desk -- Dean Nichols, Chaplain read the sign next to the door. Ok, whatever. Well into my self-imposed study hall, it dawned on me. "I remember a Dean Nichols. Nah, it couldn't be." I studied a little longer and soon it was time to leave. "I believe I'll stop by and introduce myself to Dr. Nichols. After all, I'm an alumnus of this place. He won't think it too strange."
Standing outside the door, but out of sight of the office occupant, I noticed all manner of bows and arrows, pistols, and other assorted weaponry. There were dozens of attractive bows neatly mounted on various sizes of planks of wood hung on the walls floor to ceiling. For a minute, I thought maybe this room was an outdoorsman gift shop or maybe those things were protection for the Student Center in case one of those animals out there was suddenly resurrected.
I knocked on the open door.
"Hi, are you Dean Nichols?"
"Yes, I am."
"I'm Mark Edwards, and I'm just passing through. I graduated from Southwestern a long time ago and have lived out of state since. This is crazy and a long shot, but I used to know a Dean Nichols when I was youth director down in Kerrville. I can't remember if he sang in my youth choir or not, but I remember a Dean Nichols."
"Well, if you told me not to sing and save my voice for the speaking parts, I may be your man."
"Are you from Kerrville?"
"Yes, I am."
"Does the name Susie West mean anything to you?"
"Yep, she was my first girlfriend."
Well, I knew that but I wanted to hear it from him. I had met Dean at some youth event when he, like Honey, was a mid-teenager. He went to one of the other Baptist churches in Kerrville, but Honey had told me about her first love. By the time I arrived on the Kerrville scene, they had moved on to other steadies. But, I certainly heard about Dean... more than once.
"It seems like I remember that you lived somewhere up north -- Colorado, Wyoming, or some such."
"That's right -- Alaska! I pastored up there for 19 years."
"Yeah, nine kids in all -- we had six and then adopted three more."
"You may or may not be aware that Susie died last year."
"Yeah, I heard about that. I'm sorry."
Who would have ever thought? Who could have orchestrated that "coincidence"? Driving toward Waco, I couldn't help but ponder Honey's life had she married Dean -- Alaska? She wore a fleece jacket most of the time working in her basement craft room even during the summer. Birthing six kids and adopting three? Her parents adopted three, including her, but birthing six? I think not. Apparently, Dean had done a fair amount of killing, likely gutting, and probably eating the fruit of his labor. Honey was adaptable, but envisioning her in that environment didn't really compute. I think things worked out right for her.
Not sure there is any theological thread or spiritual significance to that story, but the immortal words of Garrison Keillor do come to mind -- "ain't that a deal!"
Here's a nice hymn we sang yesterday at Second Baptist Church in Memphis where I waved my arms. It is a hymn of thanksgiving -- not Thanksgiving Day -- but living a life of gratitude even in life's low places. The tune is the familiar Welsh folk melody ASH GROVE. Sing with me --
Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
to God the Creator triumphantly raise,
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who guideth us on to the end of our days.
His banners are o'er us, His light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished,
as forward we travel from light into light.
His law He enforces, the stars in their courses,
the sun in its orbit, obediently shine.
The hill and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
the deeps of the ocean proclaim Him Divine.
We, too, should be voicing our love and rejoicing,
with glad adoration a song let us raise,
till all things now living unite in thanksgiving
to God in highest, hosanna and praise!
"LET ALL THINGS NOW LIVING" -- WORDS BY KATHERINE K. DAVIS, 1939 © 1939, REN. 1966 E.C. SCHIRMER MUSIC CO.
For some reason, we didn't include this hymn in Notes From Susie. Thanks to many of you that have said good words about the book, especially about the new material before and after the condensed content from the Facebook updates.