I Love New Mexico

About all things New Mexican

Posted by admin on January - 30 - 2012 | 12 Comments

The old First Baptist Church building - how it looked when I was a child.

Today as I was standing in church, singing “The Old Rugged Cross”, allowing a tear to slip down my left cheek although I wasn’t quite sure why I was crying, I thought “I have never written anything about my church.”  I was crying for any number of reasons – singing that tune made me think of my Grandma Ayres and my Granny Terry, and I wished that I was eight years old and that we were on our way after services to one of their houses in Tucumcari for Sunday dinner, and it also made my heart ache. 

I have been praying recently that God would open my heart while it was being healed – the last thing I want from this recent debacle in my life is for my heart to be hardened to grace and love and, most importantly, joy.  What I have prayed hardest for is for my joy to be restored – I’m pretty sure God has no intention of allowing this ridiculously minor setback (you know, it’s not like nuclear threats in Iran or world hunger or the AIDS crisis or conflict in Libya, but it has still been pretty uncomfortable for me personally) to be such a force in my life that I can’t be joyous now that I’m through it.  I’m pretty sure God’s standing back, rubbing His hands together, shaking his head, thinking, “Good grief, finally, she’s out of that. . .took long enough.”

Anyway, singing “The Old Rugged Cross” made me cry, and it made me realize that few things in my life have been as steadfast in my life as my church.  No matter how far afield I’ve roamed in my life (and believe me, I’ve roamed far AND wide. . .), the First Baptist Church at Logan, New Mexico, has stayed in the same place, with basically the same doctrine and the same hymnbooks and the same scriptural teachings each Sunday.  The preachers (I prefer the term “ministers”) have changed over the years, although Steve has now been here for a very long time, and the deacons have changed somewhat, but not much.  There are new chairs in the last decade and new carpet in the sanctuary, and now there is a praise team up front helping with the songs while Powerpoint lyrics flash on the screen behind the pulpit, but the FEEL is the same. 

It still feels like home.  Especially when my heart is healing.

The song service still feels like a release.  For a while after I returned to Logan in 2004, I didn’t like that there was no longer a choir.  I loved watching my Daddy sing in the choir all those years before, and I wanted to sing in the choir.  My Dad is the only person I know who dances with his hymnal – he finds such expressive joy in singing praise songs or hymns that he waves his songbook back and forth in time to the music and leans his head back and sends his entire voice and LIFE into the air, praising God in his very lovable and sometimes funny way.  I didn’t like that I could no longer watch this.  To me it was like finding my own joy every Sunday when I could look into the choir loft and see Dad singing (and dancing to) “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown.” 

And then I didn’t like at first that the organ and the piano were gone and Colleen was in their place playing the keyboard.  I think that every church kid in the world should have had the privilege of watching June May play the organ, and Mildred Osborn before her.  But June is no longer with us (God rest her soul, and how I miss her sweet smile and hello) and Mildred is no longer able to play, and it is time to admit that Colleen is extremely musically talented and feels led to do exactly what she does. She does it very well.

So now, although there is no Junie or Mildred, and no Thurman Thomas leading the singing, I still love the music.  I love to sing.  I am no Patsy Cline, but I’m not bad, and singing gets my heart pumping, and then some days, like today, it makes me cry just a bit, and it lifts my heart.

And Steve is good at what he does.  He’s a teacher at heart, and he is trying to lead us out of the proverbial darkness into the light, and his heart is in the right place, and I love that he works so hard at making it clear in the most essential way.  The best thing about Steve is that I have never feel like he judges anyone, and sometimes I go to talk to him privately and I say things like, “I’m just so damned pissed off,” before I catch myself, and he puts his hand on my arm and says, “You know, God doesn’t expect you to never get angry.  He just expects you to ask Him to give you grace to get through it.”

So, now I am finally telling you about my church.  I have had a love/hate relationship with it all my life. My parents never gave us a choice about attending.  As a child I was there every time they opened the door – I never totally got the purpose of Wednesday night prayer meeting, but it was easy to endure knowing that we would go to Junior and Mildred’s afterwards and I would get to play Clue with my new fifth grade boyfriend, Vondell Koontz.  I wasn’t crazy about Sunday night, but I knew that it was as much a part of our family ritual as the cold cereal and popcorn we would have for dinner afterward while watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and then “The FBI.” 

Here is the very best part about my church.  No matter where I am in my life, it is always there.  Regardless of whether I’m living in North Carolina wishing I was back home in New Mexico or on the lake at 6:00 on a Sunday afternoon (I always reflexively think that church is just about to begin, even though it’s been years since I was faithful enough to attend on Sunday night), my church is there.  Just waiting, very patiently and without judgment, for me to return.

And, also, the other best part about my church is that my parents are always there.  Today when we had the Lord’s Supper, my Daddy passed the trays of communion wafers and grape juice with the rest of the deacons and then he said the prayer over the sacrament of the blood.  My Mom was sitting in her regular place, clapping when we sang “Power in the Blood.”  I used to think that the best reason to go to church was to see my Mom’s smile when she glanced back and saw me in a pew behind her. I don’t know how I will endure life when they are no longer in church each Sunday, but thank goodness that’s not an issue.  Seeing them there makes my Sunday complete.  And safe.  And secure.  And right.

So, like I said, my church is always there, regardless of where I am in life either literally or figuratively.  Kind of like God, I guess.  My church, despite all the negative press it might get out there in the world, is still a place where people love me and treat me with kindness and where grace remains a possibility every time I come through the doors.  I’m grateful for that. And I’m most grateful that God is always in my life as well.  Not haranguing me or giving me hell for being absent the last couple of years.  Just waiting for my return.

Today I found a great quote of Anne Lamott’s which says, “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”  My life has been filled with all manner of grace recently.  I’m happy that my church has been one of the places I’ve found it in abundance.

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12 Responses so far.

  1. Ben says:

    Alright! You have made me cry this morning – tears as I start my work day. We have such a rich legacy, a heritage that sometimes I take for granted. Thank you, Bun, for expressing what I feel.

  2. Gayland Roberts says:

    I wasn’t a member of the Baptist church; however, I remember well going there for VBS. They had the greatest VBS in Logan and I learned a lot. It was great and I looked forward to it every summer.

  3. Bethe says:

    Wow, I can hardly see my key board through the tears this beautiful story has produced. Thanks so much for writing it. God Bless you Bunny and God Bless the Logan Baptist Church too!

  4. Tiffany says:

    Love this, Bunny! So beautiful. And thanks for the reminder of sweet June–she was sure one of the good ones!

    ~Tiffany

  5. Bri says:

    So I’m standing in line at kohls with tears running down my face looking crazy because I have the same feelings about good ole FBC Logan. It’s always there to come back to. A few things change but it still feels like home. It gives comfort and healing and peace when you need it most. I am so thankful granny and pop made us go when we were with them and encourage us to be there every Sunday! I’m blessed to have them and you and all my family and FBC Logan!

  6. Tonya says:

    I feel the exact same way. We could go on and on about Brother Arnold, Gerld, Dan, Sammy, Horce no matter who was our preacher or teacher it is home. Thank you so much for expressing how wonderful our little FBC is and yes it’s home. We’ve had wonderful weddings, sad funerals, and baby showers in it. We’ve all been baptisted in the cold water behind Brother Steve’s pulpit.I know this church is where we got to meet other kids from San Jon, like your sweet cousin Susie,you sis in love Viola and her famiy. I miss our old chairs that lifted up when you were not in them I don’t miss the splinters in your pantyhose. I miss our childhood of growing up in it and knowing that you could go play with Jerry Bob, Vondell, Louise, Stewart, Bunny, Jr, or myself after church at one of our parents houses. Those are the memories I cherish along with The Old Rugged Cross.

  7. Vicky says:

    Another tear jerker for sure. I think it’s the great old hymns that make us cry Bunny thinking of our family and years past and just different things. “The Old Rugged Cross” is one of my most favorite songs. I do think I cry everytime we sing it along with many others. Thanks for the memories. Love you and hope to see you soon. 🙂

  8. Shirley says:

    another to add to the line of tears running down face. You are amazing girl! I don’t even remember the church or where it’s located but if I were there in Logan now I would be at FBC to find all that you found! Thanks so much…love you

  9. Betty terry says:

    Ain’t God good!! He takes us as we are and directs us to where He wants us to be. Our church has a saying that we use quite a lot. “We’re not perfect but we are forgiven.” That says a lot for eveyone of us. We (Pop & I) are so grateful that this church is our second home and our family all know this–we’re proud of you,Bunny

  10. Karen Watts says:

    Bunny, I just read this for the first time. And, yes, I am in tears also. I’ll never forget the First Baptist Church of Logan NM. Working with the teenagers there was awesome. I remember I once told the deacons, “I don’t care if I have to have a calf ropin’ in the parking lot to get the kids here..I will do it”! I remember June also. Her sweet smile and Edna and Thurman always taking care of her. I remember Jr. and Mildred, who scared me at first, but then I realized that they were armoured covered marshmallows. I can remember when we had a sunrise service on Easter at the lake. We AND the Assembly of God church. Hmmm..I don’t think I had ever cried so much as when we watched the sun come up singing, He’s alive, He’s alive! Fond memories..I have always said that if it weren’t for my daughter and granddaughter I would move back to Logan and hang out a while. I love that place!!!

  11. Keith McCrary says:

    Read your post with interest. While I was in college at ENMU I was the pastor of the First Baptist Church Logan in 1959. This was before the lake was there. Several of the pastors before and after me, I knew personally as we were all in college at the same time. I was blessed to know that the church (the people) made such a impression on your life and God is still blessing you through your time there.


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