By: Rev. Keith Turman
Reverend Peter Lord was the founding pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Florida. My wife grew up in this church, and Peter Lord was her pastor. Rev. Lord changed my life long before I knew he even existed, because his encouragement played a major role in Chan’s decision to attend Asbury College. I don’t imagine he had anything to do with her decision to register for Spanish I in the fall semester of 1985, but that’s where the love story began, and for that I am forever grateful. On our wedding day, Rev. Lord teamed up with my father and my grandfather, the other great influencers in my life. He broke the bread and lifted the cup, reminding Chan and me that Christ would be at the center of our life and marriage. As the years passed, I heard him preach and teach with great passion about God’s longing for intimacy with us, and that a ‘love story’ with God was not only desired, but possible. The only way to love God is to know God, he would say, and the only way to know God, or anyone for that matter, is to spend time together.
Any relationship is only as good as its communication, he said to a room full of pastors. Then he told us the following story: “During a wedding reception at our home some years ago, I stepped outside for a moment to escape the crowd and the noise. There, on the small path leading from the front door to the driveway, was one of the ushers. Head cocked, he was peering intently at the plantings beside the walk. ‘What’s up?’ I half-whispered, trying to see what he was looking at and wondering what new escapade was being planned for the bride and groom. ‘Mr. Lord,’ came an awed answer, ‘do you know that you have eighteen different kinds of crickets in those bushes?’ Crickets? I stared at him blankly. I had lived here for years and had never consciously heard a cricket! But he, a graduate student in entomology at the University of Florida, had learned to distinguish over two hundred different types of cricket calls with his natural ear.” Peter Lord was beginning to discover that a person learns to hear and that a hearing ear can be developed. Understanding that hearing God’s voice is critical to intimacy with God and to knowing God’s will, he challenged us: “How often do you ask God a question and wait to hear God’s response?” What a bizarre question. Who does that? Well, he does that, and the snapshot he gave of his love story with God was amazing!
I returned to Waynesville from the pastor’s retreat and resumed a busy life serving the Faith and Francis Cove churches. A few days later, I had a serious problem—I couldn’t find my clicker pencil. A clicker pencil is essential for ministry, because the ink pen creates havoc in one’s ever-changing calendar. I was distraught, not only because I loved this pencil dearly, but also because replacing it would cost two dollars and fifty cents! I searched everywhere. I checked the pockets of my suit and every piece of clothing I had worn that week. I looked in the crevices of my car where pencils love to hide, in every drawer, and under every piece of furniture. I searched frantically at the office too. The pencil was gone. So on Wednesday of that week, while working at my desk at Faith UMC, I instinctively reached for the clicker pencil that usually hung out in my shirt pocket. The empty pocket reminded me of my loss, but I also remembered something else: “How often do you ask God a question and wait to hear God’s response?” I rolled my chair away from the desk and assumed a posture of prayer. “God, where is my pencil?” What a bizarre thing to pray. But God answered! It all happened so fast. My eyes had barely closed and my elbows had not reached my knees. There were no audible words. In fact, there were no words at all. In the half-second after my silly question, as clearly as a person sees a picture, I saw the pulpit in Faith’s sanctuary. I immediately laughed out loud, “Ha!” and bolted from my office to discover my beloved clicker pencil hiding quietly in the sanctuary on the edge of the pulpit. In that moment of joyful reunion, I was overcome with the awesome, stunning reality that a galaxy-creating God had just stooped to the trivial, silly matters of my tiny life. I know that God loves me, and wants me, and quietly whispers my name.
King Solomon wrote, “I was asleep, but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: Open to me.” (Song of Solomon 5:2)
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