Sometimes Your Second Favorite Pastor’s Name is Harv

In the summer of 2021, my second favorite pastor resigned the pastorate of my home church to take another in Florida. I had known Victor Massey since we were young. Our fathers were ministers together, long before Victor became my second favorite pastor. I said he was my second favorite since my dad, Bucky Rizzo, was a pastor and will always be my favorite. But until August of 2021, Victor Massey was my second favorite. 

Then my church had a rather lengthy pastoral search while Pastor Lane Sargent, one of our retired former pastors, served as our interim and my second favorite pastor for about ten months. During that time the deacons prayed to find God’s will for who our pastor should be. Different individuals in the congregation indicated they believed it was God’s will for this one or that one to be our pastor. Yet I do not believe God cares. I do not mean God is unconcerned, but having given us free will he provides us opportunities to make wise choices and will give us wisdom in the process according to James 1:5. I really do not see that there is scriptural support to indicate that God has one particular person selected for every pastoral position or most any other role in the church or government or community or anywhere else. The task is not to ascertain the elusive and secret will of God. Instead, scripture teaches that we are much more responsible for our decisions and the consequences of our choices than we might like, which is why we should pray for wisdom. 

With that theological understanding, I prayed for wisdom and when the pastoral vote was taken, I voted for someone whom I felt met the scriptural guidelines of a pastor and would be a good match for our congregation. But that is not who was selected. Instead in March 2022, Harv Turner became my second favorite pastor. Along with Pastor Harv, his wonderful wife Kelley became a part of our church family. Shortly after, his father, a retired minister himself, and his mother joined the congregation. And we are working to entice his son, daughter-in-law, and daughter to move to Sumiton. 

I like Pastor Harv, my second favorite pastor. He is personable and a tad high energy. Early on, I noticed that he calls the names of members of the congregation as he preaches. It is a rhetorical device to engage the congregation, a way to connect new faces with names, and sometimes just something fun to do. Mine was one of the names he called, and I began to rib him about it on social media, keeping a tally of how many times he mentioned me. He was good natured and played along. 

Recently Pastor Harv ran into me at lunch on campus. (He tried to sneak away, but I caught him.) We shared a meal and a conversation, which ran the gamut. Partly we talked about his experiences as a pastor, his father’s, my father’s, and even mine as a past music pastor. My dad more than once said that pastoring should be one of the most enjoyable jobs in the world, but people – Christians – make it difficult. The Apostle Paul surely knew this, which is why in 1 Thessalonians 5:13 he admonishes “to esteem them [pastors and church leaders] very highly in love for the work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” In the conversation with Pastor Harv, I alluded to this scripture. I try to follow it, though I know at times I have failed. But this is the way my favorite pastor raised me. 

I certainly hope I demonstrate my love and respect for Pastor Harv, whether he calls my name in his sermons or not. But I think he will keep calling my name. If you are a believer and live in the area but do not have a pastor, come meet mine. His name is Harv. I think you would like him if you met him. 

On the other hand, if you are not a believer you need a savior. His name is Jesus. I know he has been calling your name much longer and with deeper love than Pastor Harv has been calling mine. And you would love him if you met him.

39 Years Later

Sometimes – often – I wake up in the early hours of the morning and can’t go back to sleep. I listen to music from the early 80s and for a moment it’s 1980, and I’m a college freshman again. I’m in my little shotgun apartment in Jacksonville with the cold tile floor. It is early in the morning. I’m sleeping on the same bed I had as a kid, and the sun is peeking through the thin drapes in my bedroom. My parents are asleep or just starting their day 100 miles away, but they and my grandparents will be in the stands on the 30- yard line near the concession stand on Saturday. And it is time for me to head to Southerners band camp or Mason Hall to practice – or more likely to philosophize on the bench outside of Jerkyl’s office. (Jerkyl was a nickname for Dr. Jerald Davis.) John is there. Jeff is there. Lisa is there.  For a split second we’re all there again. 

And then it passes as fast as the last 39 years have. 

The 80s music is still playing on an oldies station. But that split second when it was 1980 is over. This morning my father is far more than a hundred miles away. So is John. But, that’s ok. I know where they are. Mom is just down the street. My precious kids are down the hall asleep, and that’s very good. And it’s now. I enjoyed the visit and find myself in my melancholy 1980 from time to time. 

But today, here and now, is good. Life isn’t as simple maybe. But my world is rich. In a few hours my kiddos will be stirring. I’ll get my achy back out of bed and spend the day with young people exploring their 1980 for the first time or adult students building a better today for their families. I’ll spend the work hours with passionate colleagues and friends. I’ll see cousins by the dozens at Walmart. (That’s what happens when you live in your hometown.) And by the grace of God, I’ll return home to my kids and have Mom over for supper. I’ll still visit 1980, but even if I could – as sweet a memory as it is – I wouldn’t stay there and miss today.

Precious Memories IN THE MORNING

Folks, sometimes life can, well, really suck. (Can I say that?) But for those times, I’ve learned to draw on my memories of better times. For example, I was trading emails with an old college buddy this week. We both marched in the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners “back in the day.” (You may now be in awe that I was a member of such an auspicious group.) He and I agreed that good memories, especially those of special times in our lives, are a gift and resource from God to sustain us through tough times. In fact, I don’t think it’s wrong to equate this with God’s command to Israel to set up monuments of remembrance for themselves individually as well as nationally to call to mind His blessings of the past. He said more than once something like “when your children ask… tell them.” So, I show my children pictures on Facebook of the Marching Southerners and old college friends. I was truly blessed to be a part of this group and have lifelong friends because of it. And the memories are not just “glory days” reminiscences. Instead, they are reminders in tough times that there were blessings in my life and that there are promises for the future. Now, I’m not about to break into a refrain of “precious memories, how they linger…” But, I might just lean back sing “I’ll fly away IN THE MORNING!” (Sorry folks, inside joke for all my 5,000 plus Southerners alum buddies.)

So, if you’re in a tough place in life, think back over where you’ve been and the good things and family and friends that God has put in your life. And if life is pretty good at the moment, then get off of that silly computer and get out there, live, do something, and make some memories for the future!