Rite of Passage: The gift
My family often complains that I’m one of those hard-to-buy-for people. I’m afraid I have to concur. I don’t need much of anything, and my wants are usually unattainable. For example, I want to take my wife, our two sons, their wives and my grandchildren (if we ever get any) to some remote island every year so we can hang out and enjoy each other. I took them to Mexico once, but that won’t happen every year. I want to own a cottage in the Swiss Alps where I can sit on the porch, read my Bible, pray and listen to Heidi yodeling hymns in the background. But that will never happen. I want to dance like Fred Astaire, but that will never happen, either.
While I was growing up, I was told if you danced, you went to hell. In those days, dancing belonged to the progression known as the slippery slope. It seemed so innocent at first. You started out playing cards, which led to dancing, which led to smoking, which led to sex and sex would lead you straight to hell.
In other words, my theology and my body couldn’t get together even if I wanted them to. Besides, my brain no longer communicates with my feet in a precise manner. I’m relegated to dances that involve nothing more than shuffling your feet across the room. I agree with my family. It’s hard to find a gift for someone whose wants lie beyond the realm of reason.
Every once in a while, though, God drops a gift into my lap that causes every part of my being to celebrate. The other day, such a gift came through a longtime friend, John Butts. John is one of the most gracious, gentle-spirited men you’ll ever meet. Soon after he and I got acquainted, he befriended my oldest son. The two spent many years performing in Tulsa, First’s Living Christmas Tree. Nearly 30 years later, you can still see John’s impact on my son’s life.
Not only is John a caring man, but he’s also a gifted singer. Every time he performs, he makes it look effortless. Recently, we had the privilege of ministering together at the funerals of two of our friends. John’s voice has such clarity and anointing that when he sings, “It Is Well,” you know . . . it is.
At one of the funerals, John handed me a small package wrapped in brown paper with instructions not to open the gift until I got home. The presents I receive never seem to make it to the front door unopened. This one made it all the way to my driveway.
John’s gift was a small yellow book, copyright 1956. It was titled Along the Way, and was written by S.U. “Cal” Butts. As the note inside confirmed, the author was John’s father. I opened the gift and read the preface: “This little book is made up largely of a collection of short narratives and meditations, many of which have appeared in the Baptist Messenger under the column heading “Along the Way.” For the most part they are true happenings or were inspired by incidents in the life and experience of the author. I have taken liberty to inject fiction wherever it seemed justified to dress up the story.”
Suddenly, it dawned on me. Long before I was born, John’s dad wrote the same type of articles for the Baptist Messenger as I write today. Years after their first appearance, someone compiled them into a book. And thanks to the gift, I can count this precious collection among the treasures in my library.
I laughed, cried and saw the hand of God as I read each story. I knew they came from a man who respected God and His Holy Word. Inside the front jacket, Cal wrote, “The reader will find much to delight and amuse. But more than pleasure—he will find a spiritual uplift.”
My words have a long way to go before they display as much writing talent as those of S.U. “Cal” Butts. But I believe we share more than the same spot in the Baptist Messenger. He wrote for the same reasons I do: “to delight and amuse” and, at the same time, to bring readers hope and encouragement.
The long-term existence of both our columns says a great deal about the people who run the Baptist Messenger. Amid too many squabbles about the color of the carpet or which version of the Faith and Message we should line up behind, they have allowed S.U. Butts and me to write from our hearts. And just as he did, I pray each article is received as a gift . . . from God.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail [email protected], phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)