The Big Diehl

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21 Dec

Wisdom from an Old Preacher

Posted in Devotional Blog on 12-21-06

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with a retired minister who had invested his life as a pastor in Waterloo. He’s now pretty old, has what seems to be Parkinson’s (his hands shake a lot) and some sort of Alzheimer’s (he told me so), although he remembered me between my two visits. He’s at Betz Nursing Home. Being a young pastor, I love hearing what he has to say. He’s imparted so much wisdom in the two times I’ve spoken with him, I wanted to record it so I’d never forget it. This is a personal log for myself, but I thought my readers might like to hear them as well. Here are the highlights:

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I needed to get back to the church office to finish up some stuff and get ready for other folks who would be meeting me there. I told him that I needed to get back to work. He looked and spoke to me very sternly as if to correct me. “You are at work!” he said. I’ll never forget that. The full-time minister is never “off-the-clock.” I’m always at work. The office is just one of the facets.

***

I told him that I was meeting people at the church. He said, “They will be there to meet you there.” I didn’t know what he meant so I asked, “Why?” He responded, “Because they trust you [as a leader]. Don’t ever let them down. Never let them down.” I asked, “Well, what if I do [let them down]?” He responded with words that cut deep into me, “Then you get down on your knees so fast that it tears the cloth of your pants and ask God for mercy so that God won’t let you down.” (God will never forsake me, but His anointing can leave).

***

This man had preached for years and years. I will record his words as accurately as I can recall: “Adam, I’m going to tell you something that I’ve hardly told anyone my whole life. All the sermons I ever preached – I never planned them. I only planned and wrote an outline for one sermon ever, and you know what? — it was the worst message I ever preached. When you get up there and listen to the Spirit of God . . . he’ll tell you what to say. The Holy Spirit wrote all my sermons – and He comes up with some good ones.” As I understand it, this man pastored churches which belonged to denominations which generally do not encourage direct divine revelation which he experienced.

***

He told me his wife died in April 2003. He told me how much he missed her. I remember him saying, “The love I had for her came straight down from heaven. There was never any lust or anything – it was pure love. And boy did I love her.” He spoke of how excited he was to be in heaven soon because he would get to see his wife again.

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He was so passionate about his faith. He was sickened when another old guy in the hallway would say a swear word (which I didn’t even hear). He never let me leave his room without praying for me. He would speak of witnessing Jesus Christ to another woman in the nursing home who spent her life practicing (and still practiced) another religion.

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Every Thursday afternoon my church does a little service at the nursing home. Today I was asked to share the message and preach. I ended 5 minutes early, to which I was upset about. This man shared wisdom with me, “Just because you stopped talking 5 minutes early doesn’t mean your message ended too early. Your message doesn’t stop until the people stop thinking about. The length doesn’t matter as much as the depth does.”

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I will recall his words to the best of my memory: “People always say that God never leaves us and never forsakes us. That’s in the Bible, and I always heard it. And I’ve been through a lot in my life and it’s about over, and you know what? — it’s true. He never left me and He never forsook me. God’s been faithful. He’s been so faithful.”

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