Last night I attended a community Thanksgiving Service at the church of my childhood. (Virtually, of course). Poplar Spring Baptist Church in Shelby, NC. Although more on the outskirts of Boiling Springs. It brought back so many great memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas plays and cantatas, Sunday night singings, dinners on the ground. Sunday School, Training Union, GAs and Acteens, Youth Choir.
Poplar Springs is the church where my dad and my brother were ordained. The church where my dad and my sister had their funerals and are now buried. The church that took us in and helped raise us after my dad died. The chuch where Dan and I were married. Then too, the church my mom and stepdad got married in. So many good people and so many good memories! I share this because since I am no longer there it is a piece of my life I have seldom revisited in person since I left Shelby in 1996. But, oh did that virtual visit make me homesick.
This is the church our family cleaned for years while my dad was preparing to go into the ministry. We cleaned every day of every week. Certain chores had to be done and we all had our assignments so that everything was nice and clean at service times and special times. We also did all the lawns, including the cemetery. Many were the days I sat out in the graveyard trimming the grass around tombstones with a pair of scissors.
Back then, we cleaned the toilets by hand, and there were about 20 of them. Cleaning toilets, though, in my opinion, was not the nastiest job – cleaning out the cigarette urns and picking up all the cigarette butts from the front steps was!!!! Boy, times have changed. Some say that change is not good, but I appreciate that there aren’t many men congregating outside on the church’s front steps to smoke these days.
I learned about missions and sharing the gospel, and I learned the Word of God at this church. I loved the youth group and youth choir, but as an awkward seventh grader, my parents had to force me to go because I was so shy. I am so glad they forced me. I learned to honor the elderly by visiting the shut-ins and the nursing home down the street. We didn’t do it just on special occasions. We just went. At first, I visited with my dad and later on my own. I have such good memories of those I met there.
I am so thankful for this place and all they instilled in me in those years. I am so grateful that they made sure I felt loved and cared for. These were a special people, and many (maybe most) have now moved on or passed on. Nothing much stayed the same except those stained glass windows and the pianist still playing all these years later. Oh yes….and what they placed in my heart. It is still there!
Love others and as God blesses you, bless others. Where would I be today had this church family not given sacrificially and faithfully to me and mine? They gave not just once but often over the years. These were not people that had great worldly wealth. They were farmers, teachers, nurses, and business people. I had no idea back then because they gave quietly. But I did know they were always there, ready to encourage or correct. They provided, and in the process, God used them to teach me to be a giver too. I am thankful that I learned all those years ago that LOVE feels great – oh yes, it does!
But, LOVE also looks like something. Maybe a smile, perhaps a visit, or sometimes it looks like a warm house. Love looks like many things given as needed – and now and then, given quietly!