It all started because of my Memphis shirt

Yesterday, I was in Starbucks plugged in listening to music and reading a book about the Civil War. Off to the side, a trio of gentlemen made a prayer circle, but I largely ignored them and stuck to my reading. As one of them was leaving, he noticed the Memphis Tigers logo on my shirt and smiled at me and said, “Go Memphis.” I pulled out an ear bud and asked him to repeat. He said, “Go Memphis.” He quickly followed up by telling me he was a Kentucky fan and wondered if I was still mad at Calipari. “Nah,” I assured him. “I’m over it.”

The gentleman was quite a bit older than me, at least in his 60’s. I normally don’t make a habit of talking to people at Starbucks. The ear buds and open book usually scream out “DON’T BOTHER ME!” But something about this man’s gentle and engaging demeanor said he might be worth talking to.

The conversation quickly deepened, and, as luck would have it, he is the pastor of a church my wife and I used to go to in Donelson. He wasn’t the pastor then. We left 7 years before he was hired. I am a preacher’s kid and have always had a soft spot in my heart for church pastors and I automatically empathize with their struggles.

This guy is hurting. The congregation has dwindled in number since we left 15 years ago and, just like when we were members, the “power” is concentrated in just a few hands.

We talked for maybe 45 minutes. We talked about various church members there. Many of the ones I knew are now deceased. (It was an older congregation even when my wife and I were there.) It was soon time for him to go, yet I still yearned to talk more. He asked me at least twice to pray for him because he’s having a really difficult time in his ministry. Unfortunately, his struggles are the same as the pastor before him, and the pastor before him.

I don’t think our meeting at Starbucks and it’s “coincidences” are really coincidences. It’s almost as if it were pre-arranged, like we were meant to cross paths and talk and share stories and confide certain things. These things never happen to me, as I usually avoid people. But something about this man was entirely different and inviting. I would say the moral to this story is to always wear Memphis gear, but I suppose it runs a little deeper than that. I’m grateful we met. It was a great blessing for me.

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