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A Stroll At Leisure With God

Myrtle, Ally and Friend

Yesterday, after getting some work done at the church office, I drove out to Arvada to visit Myrtle.

The other day, her granddaughter Rae Ann had called to let the church and me know that her family had moved her to the Mountain Vista Retirement Center.

Somehow, as I talked with Betty about this, I had originally thought that I had visited someone else at this place years ago, but as I drove out there yesterday, I quickly realized that I had not. I had never been to this part of town before. It was actually almost to Golden.

Anyway, after arriving, entering the facility, and receiving directions from the lady at the front desk, I made my way down the hallways, past what looked like little shops and storefronts. It was obvious that the original architect of this nursing tried to make it look as if one was walking down the street of a small town.

But after making a few turns, I found that I was hopelessly lost. I turned to the left to walk across a rather large room in which some of the attendants were taking tables down and preparing for some other type of activity with some seniors who were scattered throughout this room.

All of a sudden, I looked up and there was Myrtle. She had a blue windbreaker on and was pushing her walker. We met face to face.

I said, “Hey Myrtle, how are you? Do you know who I am?”

At first, she did not recognize me. I continued, “I am Pastor John. I came to visit with you for a few minutes.”

Finally, I could tell that she did recognize me, and we sat down on a couch to visit.

Let me stop right here and say a few things. Over the course of my twenty-six plus years as pastor of First Southern, I have not met many whom I would call “allies.” But Myrtle is one of them.

A few years ago, Community of Faith United—this is a charitable organization in our community that works with churches and the government to help needy people become self-sustaining citizens (this is a synopsis of their work). They had rented some space in a little shopping center not far from the church, but they weren’t faring that well.

So, long story short, our church invited COFU to use space in our building. As it turned out, this was a very controversial decision and a whole lot of folks in our church were patently NOT HAPPY about it. They feared what would happen if we opened our doors to “those kind of people” and wondered if we needed to purchase locks for all our classrooms so that they would vandalize things and so forth.

Please understand: I am not denigrating the legitimate concern for how this was to work out. There were a lot of questions, but here is my leadership philosophy: one must pray and ask the Lord for direction, and if He tells you to go, you must do it. PERIOD. This is not to say that there are not logistical details to be worked out, but still the bottom line is the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

This was a huge step for us. COFU needed and took a lot of space. It meant that our building was in use 24 hours a day, almost. There were a lot of issues. It was not easy, but it was right. I will go to my grave knowing this.

It ended up that COFU stayed about five years. During the time they worked in our building, the organization grew to the point where they had to move out to a larger space. Anyway, … continue to pray for this organization. It is in transition again. But COFU performs a vital function for the kingdom of God in north Denver.

Back to Myrtle—through all the controversy and difficulty we experienced in moving COFU into the church building, Myrtle was a staunch supporter of this action and did everything she could to encourage me as she heard all the negative talk and opposition to this partnership.

She was an ally, not of me. Not in blindness, but with her eyes wide open to the leadership and direction of the Lord. “She kept saying, ‘John, this is right. This is what we should have done. Don’t let the naysayers get you down.” She encouraged me, but she did more than that. She acted.

For several months, I would stop at her home every Wednesday to pick her up to bring her to the church so that she could volunteer in the clothing bank of COFU each week.

She even invited some of the seniors who were not keen on having COFU in the building to volunteer right along with her. One of these ladies stopped me one day to say, “John, I was wrong about COFU. I think it is great. I’m sorry I was opposed to them. Now, I am not.”

All of this and more came flooding back into my mind and heart as my eyes met those of Myrtle. Isn’t that strange? Well, not really.

Only eternity will tell how much she means to me and how much impact her life has had.

For the past several years, Myrtle has been struggling with Parkinson’s disease. She hasn’t been able to come to church. I have missed her. She told me yesterday that she is getting worse.

As our conversation concluded, we prayed together and I thanked the Lord for her AGAIN. I hugged her. I hope to see her next week. I don’t want her to be lonely in that nursing home.

Lord, I thank You for my ally and friend, Myrtle. I lift her up to You today. Somehow, some way, let her know how valuable she is. I love her and will never forget her. Amen.
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