Monday, September 13, 2010

two biographies

Two biographies are on my mind and in my heart.

I read the first one this past weekend. DA (Don) Carson's story of his Dad, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson (Crossway, 2008). The simple story of an ordinary man. As I read, I was reminded again of how God's ways are more deciduous than they are evergreen. The seasons are all there.

There is the springtime of God's call to be a missionary pastor in French-speaking Quebec. There is the long winter of years and years of "slogging perservance" (75) as a pastor in a tiny church in Drummondville with no apparent fruitfulness. The discouragement led to depression which contributed to resignation. No sooner had he moved to Ottawa then God decided to send summertime with the "wind of the Spirit blowing across French Canada" (116) - right through the areas and peoples where he had laboured for so long. 50 churches became 500 churches in a decade. But there was a summertime that came to Tom as well, freed to do the things he enjoyed alongside a senior pastor and able to be involved in projects like the translation of English TEE resources into French. And then there was autumn...caring so carefully for his wife Marg through Alzheimers' gradual decline and eventual death.

I remember Don's stories about his Dad from when I was his student. I started at Trinity in a Greek class under Don Carson in the very year (1981) which is described as a "great year" (119) in Tom's life as he knew God's singular, but brief, blessing on his ministry. I remember the moistened eyes. Tom Carson was 'an ordinary pastor', "perennially insecure" (117) with deep feelings of inferiority and failure and yet here we are, decades later, reading his story and being drawn closer to God as a result. Such are the ways of a sovereign and gracious who stands outside time and space and yet works in that time and space, beyond what we could ask or imagine, in and through the lives of those willing to trust and obey.

Pieces of the story will remain with me. In Tom's journal, as son Don headed to Cambridge for PhD study: "Oh God, may he walk with Thee" (104). Don's own reflections on "the chasms of discouragement" (91) through which so many pastors walk (on pp91-96) which brought to my mind some of my own dark days in Invercargill. The theological stalking by Carson senior of the emerging Carson junior with an article in Christianity Today by the latter attracting the hand-written comments in the margins by the former, "no sign of liberalism here" (123). The poignancy of reading that Tom died alone as Don, having just travelled across the timezones to be at his side, went home for a quick shower and a nap.

The second biography on my mind and in my heart is also simple and ordinary. It is the story of my Dad written by Mary Tallon, Surprised by Obedience: a biography of Raymond Windsor (Pause for Effect, 2010) for which we are having a Book Launch in Auckland on Saturday 2 October and it will be available here.

Actually I grew up realising that my Dad's life was no ordinary life. While in India I was aware of the scrapbooks back home in NZ containing his exploits as a concert pianist, a rugby player and a baritone singer. I could take you to the classroom in India where my History teacher surprised me by using my Dad as an illustration of a 'renaissance man'. Over the past 15 years I have had the privilege of preaching in about 110 Baptist churches in NZ and without exception (it is true - I have kept track of this!), at the conclusion of the service, someone has always come up to check out my pedigree and tell me a story about how my Dad has influenced their life. And now watching his health decline so steadily as Parkinson's exerts its spreading influence creates its own poignancy ...

I haven't held the finished book in my hands yet. And while it does not aim to be as polished a piece as the story of Tom Carson (nor likely to have the same readership!), I confess that the two stories stimulate the mind and soften the heart in similar ways - drawing from me the priority of "trust and obey, for there is no other way", knowing that one day God will open the way (and turn the seasons).

nice chatting

Paul

2 comments:

Andrew Butcher said...

My Mum remembers your Dad playing piano as he toured the Baptist churches when she was a girl back in the 1950s. I'm reminded of that great line from Psalm 16, which is as true for me as it is for you: the lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage :-)

Paul said...

Yes, indeed Andrew. I have heard a few variations on that theme :)