For the first time in my ministry I was at a complete loss for words.  We had just finished the worship service for Marilyn’s and my 25th anniversary of service here on September 10 – a service, I might add, that was full of surprises from beginning to end – and before we departed and went into the gym for the meal, our Emcee, Doug Alberson asked me if I had anything I wanted to say.  And all I could do was stand up and say, “I’m speechless!”  Which I was, for where does one begin to say thank you for all the obvious hard work and effort that went into what I had just been a part of.  My brain was still trying to process it all, knowing that a lot more was yet to come.  So I thought it best to say nothing at all.  But there was no way I could keep silent forever.  So allow me to use this newsletter article to give you an idea of how I felt that day and how I have felt since.

The first word that comes to my mind is HUMBLED.  The fact that so many people would go to so much trouble and effort for such an imperfect, unworthy sinner like myself was indeed a humbling experience.  But as the day progressed and I saw and heard how much fun everyone had planning and preparing for it, I felt RELIEF.  And as I began to relax and allow myself to enjoy it, I found myself experiencing another emotion, namely, ANTICIPATION.  I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next.  And oh was I ever in for a surprise!  I looked in the worship folder and after the final hymn it said: OUR CLOSING TIME TO REFLECT: “The Rest of the Story.”  I wondered to myself what that might be all about.  Nothing could have prepared me for it!  Even if someone had told me in advance, I wouldn’t have believed it.  For that final Time to Reflect took us back to the year 2002 when Marilyn and I bought our first home several miles south of Iuka.  It was a fixer upper, which is what we did to it.  It sat on 21½ acres of beautiful land.  It was out in the middle of nowhere…so quiet, so peaceful.  And there, standing next to our back door, was a good-sized concrete cow that we dubbed Bessie.  She had seen better days and was ready to go to that huge cow pasture in the sky.  So one evening Marilyn and I decided to help her along.  I borrowed a sledge hammer from my neighbor, Les Rogers, and proceeded to pound away on ol’ Bessie.  My first strike took off her head.  Others chipped away at her legs and her back side, revealing the rebar that helped hold her together.  Finally, all we had left of Bessie was her concrete body – her solid concrete body – but no matter how hard I hammered, no matter how much I pummeled, her body remained intact.  So using a rope and our car, we decided to drag her headless, legless body to the far side of our lawn where we could dispose of her by pushing her down into a ravine.  Though the rope broke a couple of times we finally managed to get her to the drop off point and with all of our strength we gave her a mighty push, only to have her move a couple of inches.  She was obviously not going to go to her final resting place easily.  I remember sitting on my backside and trying to push her down with my feet, kicking against her unmovable frame.  Finally after a lot of grunting and groaning and sweating the deed was done.  As I put it in my newsletter article back then, Bessie would remain there until Christ comes again.  WRONG!!!

Thanks to the overactive imaginations of our Anniversary Committee and the efforts and muscles of a number of our men, Bessie has risen!  She has risen indeed!  And when they dragged her down the aisle in a wagon at the end of our worship service, I couldn’t believe my eyes for NEVER in my wildest dreams, imaginations, or nightmares did I ever think I would see that cow again!  And the whole story line and video that went along with it had Marilyn and me laughing harder and longer than what we’d ever laughed before.

But the day wasn’t over yet.  We still had great food that was waiting to be consumed and lots of outdoor activities to be played.  But in between those two things everyone was told to go outside except for my family and me.  And you’d better believe my nervous anticipation really began to build at that point.  I had no clue as to what they had up their sleeve next.  And when we were finally allowed to go outside and see, we were again deeply humbled to see this beautiful Crimson King Maple tree that had been planted in our honor with a very special paving stone placed in front of it, acknowledging our 25 years of ministry here.

Terry Whipple did a wonderful job of leading the dedication of this tree, talking about the importance of being deeply rooted Christians.  I couldn’t believe it when he used that terminology because it took me back 25 years to when we were living in Naples, Florida. The night I received the call from Salem Lutheran to come up here for an interview was the very day Hurricane Andrew pounded and pummeled the Florida peninsula.  When I was asked to visit Salem, the Elders suggested that I have a devotion to get the meet and greet time underway.  So I based my devotion upon what it was like to go through Hurricane Andrew and to especially see all the trees that had fallen because they had shallow roots.  I then spoke of how important it is that we Christians be deeply rooted in God’s Word and our relationship with Christ.  Now fast forward 25 years and there we are standing out in our church yard close to the very time Naples was about to be hammered again, only this time by Hurricane Irma, and Terry Whipple is talking to us about the importance of being deeply rooted in God’s Word and our relationship with Christ.  That was just one of many “coincidences” that made it very clear to me that this very special day was not really about Doug and Marilyn Meyer; rather it was about our great and wonderful and awesome God who somehow manages to use cracked clay vessels like myself to get His work done in a world that so desperately needs it.

So the final emotion I experienced that day and have continued to experience since then is one of profound heartfelt GRATITUDE.  Gratitude to the more than one hundred of you who helped out in some way or another and made this day so special and who were listed in the bulletin insert the following Sunday; gratitude for the many special and generous gifts and thoughtful cards that people gave us that day; gratitude for the $500 monetary gift the congregation blessed us with; but most of all, gratitude to our gracious and loving God who has allowed us the privilege of serving such a fine family of His people for the past 25 years.  To Him be the glory!  To Him be the praise!  To Him be the honor!  For He and He alone deserves it!

Very humbly yours,