Have you ever heard someone say; “If I had known then, what I know now I would have acted differently,” I thought about that phrase when I was watching a story about SEC Football. The program was about “one play that changed college football.”
In 1992 SEC Commissioner, Roy Kramer, proposed a playoff game between the Eastern and Western divisions of the Southeastern Conference. The winner of that game would be crowned Champion of the SEC.
In 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide was ranked #1 and had won every game. They were the Western Division Champions. The Eastern Division Champions were the Florida Gators. The game was played at Legion Field on December 5, 1992. After the third quarter, the game was tied 21 to 21. Florida seemed to have the momentum and was moving up the field. Shane Matthews drops back to pass and throws the ball which was intercepted by Antonio Langham of Alabama. Antonio runs for 27 yards for a touchdown. Alabama wins the game 28 to 21. It was a stunning defeat for the Florida Gators and a heart wrenching mistake made by Shane Matthews. In the documentary, Shane Matthews is sitting in front of a small TV monitor watching the ill-fated pass over and over again and he says phrases like; “Oh my! Why? What was I thinking?” If he had known then what he knows now he would have never thrown that pass. Yet, he went on to spend 14 years playing in the NFL. His mistake did not define his life.
Have we not all had those moments where we have thought; “If I had known then what I know now, I would have never gone down that road, walked that far into the cave, said what I said, nor made the choice I made.
In thinking of my own life, I would not have decided to ride my tricycle down that hill. I would not have tried to jump off that house. I would not have tried to slide down the bannister of that staircase. I will tell you more about these choices in my life sometime in the near future…maybe. What I can tell you is, here is what I have learned about failures and mistakes:
Grace is at work in my life.
God can redeem all situations.
Most growth often comes from poor choices not repeated.
– Mark Gooden
Published on Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 8:25 AM EDT
This past Friday Judy and I had the privilege to meet with some of our Orange Grove friends who were working in The Vine. We spent a few minutes meeting all those working that day. I am so glad First-Centenary has opened its doors to these wonderful people.
One of our new friends is Jolene. She had a broken foot and was concerned that she would lose her job of 16 years at the recycling center. By the way, she informed Judy and me of every detail of her job. As I listened to her I was amazed by the pride she had in her work. Jolene (our new friend) said something that helped me that morning. She turned to me and said; “Preacher will you pray for me?” (I sort of like hanging out with folks like Jolene. They are so real and authentic.) She said; “Preacher will you pray for me because I am worried about the future. I need your prayers because it helps me have hope.”
Maybe this touched me so much because I too, like Jolene, was anxious about the future. I do not move well. As Jim Elliot said; “Wherever you are - be all there.” Over 35 years of ministry I have tried to be “all there” at each appointment. Jolene’s words reached deep into my heart and a strange but familiar peace settled over me. When Jolene said “pray for me - it helps me keep hope alive” I remembered the personal mission statement I adopted several years ago – “To bring hope and encouragement to all I meet.” I even have a trinket on my key ring that reads; “keep hope alive.” No matter where I am, I am called to keep bringing hope to the sick, the fearful, the anxious, the outcast, the immigrant, the depressed, the discouraged, the detestable....EVERYONE.
As a body of Christ may we continuously offer hope to each other, in our community, in our state, in our nation and in our world. As we begin our journey together may we help others have hope.
One more thing – I ask that you pray for me this week and in the coming weeks. It helps me have hope too. Thank you Jolene for helping me to keep hope alive and thanks to you First-Centenary family for keeping hope alive in our church, community and world.
– Mark Gooden
Jeremiah 29:11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
Published on Friday, July 6, 2018 @ 2:33 PM EDT
It was the late Dag Hammarskjold who said, “For all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!”
You very precious people have been a part of our lives for the past six years and we say “Thanks!!” We now move on to a new adventure in our lives with God and we say YES!!” Our special prayers are with all of you as you move forward, for the cause of God in Christ, with your new senior pastor and his lovely wife. Thus, we pray for Mark and Judy as they now have the privilege to serve Christ in and through this church of churches.
So, as we approach our last Sunday together, June 17, we leave you with the following:
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always
at your back.
May the sun shine
warm upon your face
the rains fall soft
upon you fields,
and until we meet again…
May God hold you
in the palm of his hand.
Doug and Carolyn Fairbanks
Published on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 @ 3:24 PM EDT
Some years ago, in a sermon for the funeral of Sir William Cokayne on December 12, 1626, The Rev. John Donne (1572-1631) made the following statement: “I throw myself down in my Chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.”
There are indeed so many things and ways that we can be distracted as we seek the voice, presence and guidance of God for our lives. In our world, that is a gross understatement. So many distractions that it is hard, at times, to distinguish the voice of God from every other bit of noise we put up with on a daily basis from all kinds of people and places. Add to that the business that eats away at every fabric of our lives and we can easily find ourselves out of touch with that which is the foundation for the joy, meaning and purpose of life, God!
Therefore, may I suggest that we cultivate the discipline of “Pause.” There is a reason for the pause buttons we find on a variety of the electronic devices which seek to control our lives these days. Pausing is an extremely important part of helping us keep our heart, souls, minds and bodies together.
It is no fluke that the Psalmist said, “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”
There is no secret glory nor is there some great reward for being on the move and being busy all the day long. So, just pause precious ones, just pause once in awhile. Pause……..and enjoy God a whole lot more.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 8:48 AM EDT
Just to let you know, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor did not call me and ask about who should be the next Senior Pastor at First-Centenary United Methodist Church. Bishop Taylor did not base her decision on any question she may or may not have asked any of the former pastors like Al Bowles, Charles Neal, David Harr or, with all due respect, even our beloved Bishop Looney. Though, I am sure we would have some good advice.
However, she and the Holston Conference Cabinet, with input from our Staff/Parish Committee, made the decision on their own. That, in the end, is a very good thing.
It is a good thing because no FCUMC “former pastor” and, I will soon be one of them, knows the present needs of a former congregation and does not have the authority shape the mission of said congregation. If the new senior pastor asks for help that is a different story. We clergy live in covenant with one another and Holston Annual Conference and consider it a breach of ethics to do otherwise. We human beings relate differently to different people, that’s just a fact. This is simply part of the dynamic change of energy involved in the appointive process that allows for the church to build upon what has happened and to move forward to what can happen for the cause of Jesus Christ!
Our system is not perfect. Yet, when I left the Knoxville District Office six years ago, I had a large drawer full of requests and resumes from Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic, Wesleyan, Nazarene, Church of God and other clergypersons who wanted to become ministers in The United Methodist Church. I accommodated one from the Nazarene Church. Our approach must not be too bad.
We former pastors of FCUMC are just that, former. Please, I hope and pray that you have appreciated us, but, do not seek guidance for the life and mission of this church from us. Our opinions should be appreciated but never definitive concerning the existential life of this church. In other words, having served here gives us no special privileges. Indeed, any participation by us in the life of FCUMC should be done with the permission and blessing of the new senior pastor. The new senior pastor at FCUMC is projected to be Rev. Dr. C. Mark Gooden.
Mark’s first sermon is on July 1 and my last sermon is June 17th. May the Holy Spirit continue to be upon us all during this period of transition.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 10:03 AM EDT