by Robert Earl Houston
DALLAS, TEXAS – I went to Dallas last year on personal family business and came home empty-handed, broken-hearted, and at the end of my rope. It took months to even discuss it. That was even before I had been diagnosed with cancer and at the same time dealing with the responsibilities of pastoring a thriving church in Frankfort, Kentucky. I was shaken and stirred. I had prayed for success and the end result was humiliation, disrespect and a feeling of anger and resentment I had never experienced before. It made me to make post-life decisions to express my reaction. It made me understand the adage, “Life is too short . . . ”
Fast forward to 2014. I’m in Dallas again, attending the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference and really, honestly, and truthfully, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I’m blessed, foremost, with a clear relationship with Jesus Christ. After watching Him repair my heart over and over and over again after the Dallas Debacle and seeing two of my best friends receive their commencement in Heaven, and going through the ups and downs of ministry – I trust Him more and more. Last night, Dr. E. Dewey Smith talked about the downs of ministry. A year ago, I would have been in tears, this year – no tears, but an appreciation of the repair apparatus of God. My heart has been healed.
Secondly, I have an amazing life in Frankfort. Note of disclosure: Kentucky’s state capitol was the one I could never get correct in school (always thought it was Louisville). My wife and I have been tremendously blessed since our marriage in 2005. We haven’t had five minutes of arguments in nine years that I have listened to (JOKE CREDIT: The late Rev. Dr. E.V. Hill) and we have an extraordinary church family. We live RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE CHURCH, but they respect our privacy and we have walked together with our congregation in our highs and our lows. Our lows have been rough but it is in our lows that we discover that our God whom we serve is truly able.
Thirdly, my health is improving. I’m a tad skinnier than I was last year. Getting into some clothing that was headed to the Goodwill because of “lack of additional space.” Since my bout with cancer, I’ve developed an ulcer (open wound) on my foot, which my medical team now says should be completely healed this summer. I started my walking regimen this week in Dallas, wearing diabetic shoes with orthopedic inserts. I’m on a dietary routine . . . well, when I get back home, I’ll get back to it. Dallas food ain’t no joke and some of my favorite restaurants in the US are here – Pappasito’s, Pappadeaux’s, Catfish King, and even Church’s Chicken (hard to find in Kentucky). I’m walking this year without a cane, without a cast, and moving better than in a long, long time.
Fourthly, I’m content. Look, I’m 54 years old – I don’t look like it (thank you to those who invented razors and Michael Jordan who made bald a fashion statement). I’ve had my challenges but God’s been good. I look back over my life and those stormy moments are nothing but history now and now worth repeating. I’m thankful for my beginning years in Portland. I’m grateful for my enjoyable years in Fresno. I’m grateful for the maturing and challenging years in San Diego. I’m grateful for the restorative years in Nashville. And now, I’m thankful for the blessed years. In the words of a pastor I spoke with this week, he said “Houston, it sounds like you are going to heaven from Frankfort.” We shall see. But these are the best times of my life.
At 54, I’m a card carrying member of the “Senior Sages” fraternity of preachers. This year it’s been 37 years since I’ve been called to preach. This year it’s been 36 years since I preached by first sermon at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. This year it’s been 25 years since I began a series of Pastoral assignments. I’ve been a member in all these years of all four national baptist conventions and the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. I’ve held convention office from Vice Moderator of a District to Congress Dean to State President to District General Secretary in two districts, President’s Special Assistant of a National Convention, Board Chair of one of the nation’s oldest black newspapers. It’s been quite the ride.
This week, I overheard a couple of ministers as I walked by. The younger one said to the older one “who is that?” He said, “man, THAT’s Robert Houston. You need to read his blog. He’s one of the best.” My friend Dr. E. Dewey Smith, made it a point to tell me, “Houston, you’ve been a blessing to the body of Christ and pastors everywhere.”
I’m in a good place in life. And not ashamed to say, as Dr. Smith, said, that I’m even holistically well – physically, spiritually, and mentally. I know when it’s time to find someone to talk to. Lord knows I’ve had enough to warrant that counsel this past year. I encourage Pastors – make sure it is well with your soul, your strength, and YOUR MIND.
I’m grateful that I did not become a statistic.
YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED.