Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
There are quite a few people around the Azle area that know me as the former long-time pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church. I am honored to have that designation. Not many pastors are afforded the blessing of serving the same congregation for seventeen years. A lot of really long-time Azle area residents know that before there was a Gerry Lewis at EMBC there was a Roland Earl. Now, there’s a legend. His thirty-one years as pastor make my seventeen seem like a brief sojourn. It was my honor to serve as his associate for four years when I was a seminary student. He was my mentor, my friend, and my father in the ministry. When his ministry was completed and he graduated into heaven in 1991, I was humbled to be called to the church as his successor.
While Roland cast a long shadow in the community, there was a less public partner who often stood in the shadows. Ruth loved being the pastor’s wife for two main reasons—she loved the Lord and she loved the pastor. Jesus and Roland were the only men for her. She was mom to their three daughters, Granny to their grandchildren, and a friend and encourager to everyone who needed either.
When I came back to EMBC as pastor, she graciously relinquished her role as First Lady and helped my wife to flourish in her own ministry and in her own giftedness. In one of our earliest conversations, she told me she had been the pastor’s wife for so long that she wasn’t sure what else her role was. I told her the she could be the pastor’s mom since mine lived so far away. There were times over the years that I went to her house for a “mom” talk when I was overwhelmed and needed to unload. Our family has included her on our Mother’s Day card list for the past 25 years. For the entirety of my pastorate at EMBC I considered her the Queen Mother. God gave me an immeasurable gift in allowing me to be her “son” and her pastor. My own mom has considered it a blessing to share me with Ruth.
A few days ago, less than two months after her 86th birthday, her frail little body wore out. She completed her ministry and graduated into heaven. The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15, NIV). We miss her, but I believe that on Thursday morning King Jesus got the first dance and Roland was standing close by getting ready for his turn. What a legacy! What a love! Their lives mattered. So do ours, even if we live in someone’s shadow.