Today marks the ten year anniversary of the death of my friend Mack McMillan. In some ways it seems like last week. For his family there must be times it seems like an eternity. Mack and I both helped plant new churches, he a year ahead of me. We both served as superintendents – he starting a year before me. We served on the Board of Ordained Ministry together, riding to the Triangle and other far away lands from homes near the Albemarle Sound. Mack was a leader at my Emmaus Walk weekend in 1994 in Wakefield, Va. In short, Mack was an encourager to me; a dear and trusted friend. I tried in my own way to be the same for him.
The Psalmist prays to God, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” [Psalm 90:12] Eugene Peterson frames the prayer this way, “ Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!”
To “number our days” is one of the ways we learn to “live wisely and well.” Mack packed quite a bit into his 50 years on this earth. He was blessed with a loving spouse and children after having been sponsored into this world by his mom and dad, who gifted him with siblings to boot. As I watch people remembering my friend today, on the anniversary of his entry into The Church Triumphant, I am reminded that life is not something to be endured, but celebrated. Every second is a precious gift to be embraced in its fullness, the good with the bad.
Today I remember a retreat Mack and I participated in back in September of 2009 at Duck, N.C. The bishop and cabinet were together in a less formal setting and sharing in some group-building exercises. We were given a template of sorts to write our own sort of poem of origin. It was based on a now famous poem by George Ella Lyon, called “Where I Am From.” If you watch the attached clip, you can hear her read it for herself. What I remember is that my friend was overcome with emotion in sharing his words. He had to stop before he finished, as he tried to compose himself. He did – partially. After a few moments he stumbled his way through to the end, but it was a holy moment for the few of us there. It made me think of Moses at the burning bush – a need to remove shoes, and lay aside all pretense and cast away false bravado. Mack offered these as some of his words that day…
I am from a huge magnolia tree in the backyard of Aunt Minnie’s house where my sisters and I played catch thanksgivings… I am from high school football stadiums and hot August two-a-day practices… I am from Granny’s fried chicken, rice and gravy, and cornbread muffins… I am from Duke Divinity, a call to ministry forged in youth work and blessed by loving parents, caring enough to be patient… I am from Durham, Fayetteville, Mt. Gilead, Laurinburg and Henderson – places where my father preached and my mother taught… In my back yard there is a clubhouse (for boys only of course) full of memories, old black & white slides shown on a bare, wooden wall, reminding me of a goodly heritage, a blessed life, and allowing me to hope for a bright, promising future… Sept 9, 2009
Maybe you would like to create your own version of “Where I Am From.” I highly recommend it. What if each person on your ministry team, Church Council, in your youth group, UMW Circle, Choir or Men’s fellowship created and shared with each other the gift of these glimpses with each other????
George Ella Lyon sharing “Where I Am From” via YouTube
Still In ONE Peace,
Jon (the Methodist)
If you would like to view past editions of How Sweet the Sound, follow this link: https://sounddistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/