Remembering Maurice

B.C.'s-tulips-crYesterday was the Ides of March, March 15.  It was also the birthday of Maurice Coleman.  Maurice was the pastor I worked with back in the 70s when I was a youth minister.  I had the privilege of serving with him in Waverly, Tennessee, for only 2 ½ years but we maintained a close friendship until his death in 1997.  Few people have had more influence on my life.

Since yesterday was Maurice’s birthday I spent a good bit of time thinking about him.  He was definitely one of the smartest people I have ever met and had a memory I envy to this day.  He was also very funny, incredibly compassionate, and a faithful servant of the Lord.  He, his wife Lanelle, and daughter Denise, became like a second family to me.  Lanelle and Denise still are.  In fact, my wife and I are the proud godparents of Denise’s children—Emily and Caleb Stookey.

Maurice helped instill in me a love for reading and good books.  I have scores of books on my shelves today that were gifts he graciously bestowed upon me.  He also taught me a lot about how to be a minister.  I was brand new to ministry in those years and had a lot to learn.  I could not have asked for a better teacher.  As a pastor today I owe a huge debt to him.

spring-cardinal-588While thinking about Maurice yesterday it also occurred to me that he has influenced my life in other ways that I really hadn’t thought about.  Maurice loved flowers and meticulously planted and cared for them in his yard.  I had never known a man who loved flowers.  I grew up associating them with women.  Today I, too, love flowers and they are one of my favorite photographic subjects.  That comes, in part, from Maurice’s influence.

Maurice also had a deep love for nature that went beyond flowers.  He loved birds as well and was the first person I encountered who fed them on a regular basis.  He took great delight in watching the birds come to his feeders, just as I do today.   Maurice was not a photographer—I don’t even remember him owning a camera—but his house was filled with beautiful prints by artists like Ray Harm, Ralph McDonald and Jim Gray.  The subject for all of these prints was nature—birds, flowers, animals, trees, etc.  Here again, I cannot help but believe that Maurice Coleman was influential in shaping my own love of and appreciation for nature.

Fourteen years ago I spoke at Maurice’s funeral and remember saying that I would always bear his mark upon my life.  I’m not sure I realized even then just how true that would be.  I bear his mark every time I preach, every time I photograph, every time I sit down here to write a post for Seeing Creation.  I realize most of you never knew Maurice Coleman but I wish you could have.  I really do.

–Chuck 

(The tulips shown above were grown by Maurice at his house in Waverly, TN.  I took the cardinal image here at my home.  It was in a tree next to my feeder.)