For Joe

We all know the saying, “at church every time the doors are open.”  I have known people like this, my Grandmother Blanchard for one, and, at times, I have been one of these people.  You know the ones…If there is a service, event, meeting, dinner on the grounds, VBS..you name it, they are there.  In fact, my Grandma Carter goes to BOTH the “early” and “traditional” services on Sunday mornings at her church…the doors are open, she walks in!

We all can think of at least one person, probably more, that fits the criteria of “there whenever the church doors are open,” but how many times do you think about the one who opens the doors?  I know I never did.  In my comings and goings from church as a child and as an adult, I do not think I ever came to a door that was locked…I also don’t think I ever thought about who unlocked them.  Maybe as a child I thought that when the church said “the doors are always open,” I took them literally.  But even as an adult, when I knew about locking doors, alarm codes, I never gave consideration to who unlocked them.

Then, I came to Southside United Methodist Church, and, well, the doors were NOT  always open!  In fact, there were many times I would come early to set up for an event, attend a meeting and the door I needed to enter, was locked.  And it is in this time of need that my friendship with Joe Lanier was strengthened and, at times, put to the test.

I met Joe, the Supervisor over the facilities of the church (or “boss of the church” as he is known to many children) when we both worked on VBS skits during the Summer.  I quickly learned that Joe was, indeed, the “boss” of the church and often had to leave our VBS practices to go solve an issue with one of the church buildings, supervise a project, or to unlock a door or utility closet for someone.

And so, as my times at the church became more frequent, I was often in need of Joe’s assistance with unlocking doors.  Although he was always more than happy to unlock the Education wing, the Basement, the Family Life Center, he eventually gave me a key to these doors.  I believed at the time, and am sure this was the case, that the key was given as a kindness, a show of trust on his part. (Of course, there is the possibility that SOME of the reason he gave me the key was so that I would stop pestering him regularly to unlock this or that!)  Even still, he had given me the keys to something for which he was entrusted to protect, guard and care for.  For this, I will always be grateful.  Not just because it made it easier for me to fulfill my duties at our church, but for what it did for my spirit.  Joe not only opened the doors of the church for me, but he gave me the means to do it myself.  His sense of duty for our church, his kindness toward me and my family, and his devotion to his faith were a KEY to opening my eyes to what true servant leadership was meant to be.

My friend Joe has retired from his job at our church, but I am eternally thankful to him for teaching me about opening doors.  If we believe in Christ, we all hold the keys that allow us to gain access and enter through the door to a deeper faith and to share this WAY with others.  Perhaps you know someone today that needs to know about this KEY, they long to enter into a deeper faith, they are standing at the door, waiting to be let in. My suggestion? Do what my friend Joe always did…open the door, share the key!

“but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,  for my door was always open to the traveler—”  Job 31:32

 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

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