one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
It was a hot, humid, mid-summer
day. I, along with a couple of members from our church staff, had been called upon to provide music at a graveside funeral service. The trio consisted of two tenors and an alto. Although the musical selections were familiar songs, we were confessedly more nervous than usual because we were singing a cappella.
The service was for an elderly saint—the mother of a member of my congregation. A well-known and beloved retired minister served as the officiant. Family and friends gathered under a tent canopy erected to provide shade from the sweltering heat. An unusually large crowd gathered at the rural cemetery.
Our trio huddled outside the tent near the casket. Blinded by the glaring sun, we were able to see only the silhouettes of those in the shaded area. On cue, the service began and we sang the opening song. After we finished, the old minister read the obituary, made a few brief remarks, and led in prayer. Following a second song, the elder clergyman proceeded to deliver the homily he had prepared for the occasion.
Abruptly, with no warning, the aged preacher stopped speaking. Although my vision was obscured because of the sunshine, I noticed the mourners shifting nervously and staring at the ground. I was unprepared for what happened next. The old minister gently laid his Bible on the lid of the casket, reached down, and pulled up his trousers, which had fallen around his ankles.
There was, understandably, a prolonged period of awkward silence. After retrieving his Bible, the unflappable old gentleman stated matter-of-factly, “I’ve lost so much weight I can’t keep my pants up.” Then, without missing a beat he continued sharing the memorial message.
Frankly, I don’t remember his text or much of what he said that day. However, I will never forget that preacher’s wardrobe malfunction.
This true story illustrates some valuable lessons I have learned throughout my ministry.
Expect the unexpected. You cannot control everything that happens to you. Learn to roll with the punches. It will relieve much stress in your life.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Develop the ability to laugh at yourself. Everything is not a matter of life and death.
Be yourself. Don’t attempt to save face by trying to be something or someone you are not. Be honest. Be real—even if it hurts your pride. No one likes a hypocrite or a phony.
Make the most of every situation. God can use even a humorous experience to teach serious truths.
About the columnist. One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.