Recently I wrote an article for the Linn County News that I also posted as a blog. It was entitled: “Don’t Procrastinate!—A Lesson From Pastor Charley Clay” and can be read on this site under my “Living the Faith” section on the right side of the homepage. In that blog I wrote about Pastor Clay having written me a card of encouragement regarding my frequent columns in the newspaper. I wrote him back thanking him for the card. Within a few days of his receiving my card he died of a heart attack. Now for the rest of the story…….
Last week the Linn County News published my article about Pastor Clay and on Saturday I received a call from his daughter Doretta. She invited me to come over to Blue Mound and look through his library and told me any books of his I wanted I could have. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity and Tuesday evening I went to Pastor Clay’s home to meet with his widow (Ruby) and his daughter. We went to his office and opened the door where I was stunned to see a large room with wall-to-wall (and floor to ceiling) bookshelves. Doretta said, “take whatever you want, in fact if you like we’d love for you to have them all.” I was absolutely floored. I told her I wouldn’t want to take anything that was an heirloom or anything they might want later. She assured me that they had already gone through and took out what they wanted. The rest was mine to have, use, or pass on to others.
I spent the next 2 hours combing through and packaging up Pastor Clay’s library. I estimated it to be about 1,500 books…and they are good books. Several of the commentaries and Bible Study helps that I frequently look for on ebay--he had the entire set of. Shelves and shelves of books by John Macarthur, James Boice, J. Vernon McGee, Warren Wiersbe, R.C. Sproul, and Charles Spurgeon. I constantly search ebay (yes I spend too much time on ebay—see Laptop Blog) for books by Charles Simeon, who was a Pastor in London in the 1800s. His books are hard to find because most people haven’t heard of him. Pastor Clay had 23 volumes of Simeon’s sermons. He and I were probably the only two people in America that ever heard of Simeon. Who would have ever guessed what I found in Blue Mound?
I thought for a moment I had died and gone to Heaven. But the truth is that Pastor Clay has died and gone to Heaven and his family thought he would have wanted his books to go to a man who would get some use out of them. I can’t express how blessed I feel to be that man. Not just because I love books, but because I see it as an honor to own the books of a man who poured his life out in service to the King. Even if Pastor Clay’s library had been unimpressive, I would have wanted some of his books just because they were his. To be given what I received was truly overwhelming.
I also enjoyed visiting with Doretta about her father. He had served the church in Blue Mound for some 25 years, most of that as a "bi-vocational" Pastor. He was loving and kind to all in the community, but he did not shy away from preaching God’s truth. In his years he had “ruffled some feathers” and had shed many tears over the lost souls around him. He lamented the sad fact that so many preachers nowadays soft pedal the gospel and side step issues to avoid “offending.” He always said that he would have to give an account to God for what he said in the pulpit, AND for what he DIDN’T say. How true. As we visited I was constantly amazed at how many things Pastor Clay and I had in common. Our preaching styles, our theological beliefs, and our views on ministry were almost identical. And apparently this was something he noticed as well…
His wife told me he always loved reading my Seeking Higher Ground columns in the paper and had said many times that he planned to write me a card. She said he was especially encouraged to see Biblical convictions coming from a younger Pastor. I think maybe it gave him some hope for the future of the gospel. I’m sure he sometimes felt like a “voice crying in the wilderness”…but yet, he cried on. He cried the gospel from his pulpit until God called him home. And in some ways I have the honor of carrying the torch that he carried so faithfully in Linn County for 25 years.
He died the way I hope to one-day die…as a Pastor. By God’s grace he was still serving right up until his death. He didn’t die in the comforts of retirement…He died on the “Lord’s battlefield.” A faithful soldier who valiantly wielded the “sword of the Lord” until the end. He shepherded the Lord’s people and spoke the gospel truth to the perishing. His work is over. His reward has come. My work (which is really the Lord’s work) carries on. He served faithfully as a Pastor for 25 years. I have served almost 2. By God’s grace I hope to persevere and pray that I will be found faithful until my day comes. And when my day does come I’ll leave this temporal dwelling for a perfect home not made by human hands (2 Cor. 5:1). I’ll go to Heaven and kiss the feet of Jesus. I’ll visit with Peter and Paul and Abraham and Moses…….And I’ll thank Charley Clay for his library. I’ll thank him for working a 2nd job as a County employee and using his hard earned pay to buy commentaries. I’ll thank him for reading my newspaper articles and for writing me a card back in 2006. And I’ll swap stories with him about the joys, discouragements, good times, and bad times that come with being a small town preacher in Linn County Kansas.
I left Blue Mound with a van literally overflowing with books. (I’m so glad I drove the church van) I thanked the Clays as many times as I could and I told them I would be praying for them and their church. Mrs. Clay is not in good health these days either and now she begins that difficult job of carrying on without the “soul mate” by her side. As I drove away I prayed for them and I know my prayer will be answered. God will take care of them. He always takes care of His people. I also thought about how amazing God is. In fact He never ceases to amaze me. He leads me everyday. And everyday is different. Some days I laugh with people. Some days I cry with the very same people. A few months ago I rejoiced with one family as they welcomed a new baby into their home. That same month I mourned with another family as I preached the funeral of their stillborn daughter. Some days I rejoice with couples who have marriage plans. Other days I pray for couples whose marriages are falling apart. Some days are glorious. Some days are hellish. But ALL of my days are directed by the Lord. And so are yours. What does God want to do in YOUR life today? He has something planned for you to do. It may be big…or it may be small. Keep your eyes open for whatever it might be. Some days you may “get the shaft.” But then again…some days you may get the “gold mine.” I did…and I found it in Blue Mound, Kansas…who would have ever guessed?... Until next time…