I’ve been enjoying re-reading Jan Karon’s books set in Mitford, North Carolina, centering on the life and ministry of the community’s Episcopal priest, Father Tim Kavanagh.
I like Father Tim. My wife goes farther: she says I am Father Tim. My wife is usually right, but she’s wrong on this one. Father Tim is a much better pastor and a much nicer fellow than the preacher my wife lives with. But nonetheless it does me good to spend time with the kind rector, and I’m usually more pastoral and a little nicer after I’ve done so.
I wouldn’t deny that a few similarities do exist between us, Father Tim and me.
Mitford is a small town of the “great place to live” variety. Muleshoe is in exactly that category. Father Tim has discovered that the very best (and by far the largest) part of America is the small town part. I couldn’t agree more.
Mitford is set in the “high green hills” of North Carolina. Muleshoe is set in the high brown plains of West Texas. Hmm.
Father Tim has discovered that you can truly and meaningfully touch just as many lives in a small church/small town setting as you can in a large city/mega-church setting. Maybe more. I agree.
Father Tim is the kind of guy who would rather spend thirty minutes with the “real” guys at the local coffee shop than five minutes with the “plastic” big business/big politics/big shots (in general) of our society. Absolutely.
Father Tim has a great church secretary full-time who does a great job and doesn’t mind telling him how “the cow ate the cabbage” and keeping him in line. I’ve got one of those, too, but she can do the job in one day a week.
Father Tim has a great dog. For lots of years, I had one of those. His dog is pacified by the reading of Scripture or 18th-century English poets. I never needed to try that. Like her master, the best thing Maddie did was sleep.
Father Tim has a polite little motor scooter. I’ve got a man-sized machine with air intakes and pipes that opened wide will suck in and spit out neighborhood pets from three doors down. (The similarity is that both machines have two wheels.)
Father Tim has been described as “bookish.” Ditto, and that’s a compliment. Our society desperately needs folks who read more and spout off less. But I don’t read enough.
Father Tim esteems C. S. Lewis and Winston Churchill as among his heroes. Well, of course.
Yes, there are some similarities. But Father Tim is, I repeat, a much nicer guy, better pastor, and finer human being than am I.
As I spent some time with him recently, I was struck by the notes he’d jotted in his sermon notebook on “thanksgiving” and another quotation or two he recalled.
Oswald Chambers: “We look for visions of heaven, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. . . .” Looking for the “highest good,” we “deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, . . . Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.”
I’m pretty sure Father Tim’s Thanksgiving sermon was better than mine.
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Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.