A few years ago, as I grappled with daunting personal and spiritual challenges, I phoned my church and asked for an appointment with our pastor. The office manager explained that the pastor's schedule was already loaded and that she didn't know when he'd be able to see me. I asked her not to make a big thing out of it and said I'd be grateful if she could work me into calendar whenever it was convenient - next week, the week after that... Within half an hour my phone rang. The office manager told me that she had spoken to the pastor and that he would be happy to see me tomorrow.
When I arrived at the church office the next day, I thanked the pastor for taking time to talk with me about what I was going through. He interrupted with a comforting smile and a said, "That's why we're here."
We sat together for about 40 minutes. I hadn't planned or expected to let my emotions go that day but, as I unburdened myself, the pastor's keen insight and personal compassion made me feel safe. I dropped my usual defenses and the tears flowed
in warm, cathartic waves. The pastor comforted me without coddling me. He allowed me to regain my strength in the moment through faith in God and renewed confidence in myself. I dabbed my tears dry and straightened up.
I'm touched whenever I think back on that day. A man of God who already had a million things to deal with cared enough about my individual situation to be there for me. He did so because that's what Jesus did.
The New Testament records how Jesus - even if he was hurrying to get somewhere or if he was in the middle of a crowd of thousands - would pause to show kindness and to bring dignity to a single, lowly individual. The four gospels tell how Jesus stopped what he was doing to show love to people like the Samaritan woman at the well, blind Bartameus on the side of the road, the woman with the issue of blood, Matthew up in the tree, the children whom his apostles tried to keep away, and so on.
"That's why we're here."
News about bad religious leaders is never hard to find. We hear so much about preachers who abscond with church funds, molest children, carry on adulterous affairs or who are just too arrogant, self-righteous and judgmental to radiate the love of God. But in houses of worship across this country and around the world, in every denomination and in every religion, there are men and women whose greatness lies in their integrity, their humility, their kindness and the loving way that they serve God by serving people.
The Rev. Dr. Johnie Carlisle is one such person. So, as he retires after more than 30 years in the pulpit, including 12 ½ years at First AME Church in Pasadena, I add my voice to the thousands of others who thank God for the impact of Dr. Carlisle's love and the inspiration of his example.
Thanks for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my Two Cents. THINK! IT AIN'T ILLEGAL...YET!