Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Liked That

A couple of weeks back, my wife and I made our first Sunday visit since our little church closed. We, she, had been invited long before to a small Baptist church in the small once-upon-a-time-town of Coila in Carroll County. I was excited about going. Every time I had prayed or thought about where we might go, this was the kind of place that always came to mind: small, Carroll County, Southern Baptist.
We drove up a little before 11:00 to a well-kept white frame building sitting on a lot  of fresh-looking, green grass surrounded by trees. I liked that. Across the gravel road, a pasture stretched up a hillside. Coila now is a gravel crossroad with three or four houses and a Baptist church. Any community in Mississippi that has a name has a Baptist church. At least one.
Several informally but neatly dressed men stood outside chatting. Only one of them wore a neck tie. I liked that. I guessed that the man wearing the tie was the pastor. I guessed right.
Birds sang in the sunlight as we stepped out of the truck, clutching our Bibles and holding our uncertainties close to our chests. The greetings were friendly. The people, though few, were not scarce. The names I mostly forgot. I am sure they forgot mine also.
One thing stood out. A dog, a brown sort of lab-looking canine, lay comfortably on the front porch in close proximity to the door. I liked that.
“Is that the associate pastor?” I asked Perry Irvin, the preacher wearing the necktie.
“That’s him,” Brother Irvin responded walking me closer to the dog. “We call him Tripod,” he added pointing to the creature’s missing left front leg. “He got hit by a car.”
I was amazed I had to get so near to notice that a reclining dog only had three legs. Upon closer inspection I saw the long scar across the side of his chest that silently testified to a painful past. How often do we overlook scars, I wondered to myself?
Penny and I went inside and felt comfortable enough to pick a pew. I liked that. The service started with prayer. Then we sang songs, old songs, songs my wife and I knew. I liked that.
An offering was taken. Children’s church was held. More songs were sung. Prayer requests were voiced. The pastor, Brother Irvin, preached. He took his text from the Book of Genesis. It was part of a series. I liked that.
He preached a good message. His sermon had a structure. It made a point and was to the point. Somewhere in his comments was a statement that could have come across as trite or cliché. He said, “Everyone is welcome here.” Usually those words just sound like words but I knew they were true. I thought about the three-legged dog that lay on the porch before the front door. No one had asked him to leave. No one had asked him to move. I like that. I think God does too.