For whatever reason, I am able to distinctly remember certain dates over the past almost 72 years. This last Monday I marked a 40 year milestone in my life. It was a Sunday that I jumped in my Toyota Tercel and pulled out of Enid, Oklahoma on that day in 1981. I had resigned my position as the Chaplain of Enid State School, resigned from my adjunct professor role in the seminary, and waited my last table at the Pepper Mill Steak House. I was broken and defeated. My marriage had ended, my brother had been killed, and I decided to move back to Pueblo—to start over.
My clearest memory of that day took place in eastern New Mexico. I looked down on my car seat at a half smoked pack of Merit cigarettes and thought, “Today would be a good day to quit smoking”. I threw the pack out the window by Capulin Mountain. I was done with one self destructive habit (there more to come). I remember moving back into my old bedroom in my parent’s home. The room was just as my brother Don had left it when he died two years prior. That day I entered into the depths of postponed grief as I sat there on my bed, asking myself how it had come to this.
I went back to work for my dad and my uncle at Cleaver Carpet Center. It was very hard work. However, I was the helper for a pretty special guy named Lee. He was an amazing carpet layer but more than that, he was brilliant. He was a falconer. That summer I learned a lot about these birds that had intrigued me since I was a boy.
Later that summer Charles Whitmer who was the pastor for the last 24 years, of the church I had grown up in, asked me to come to see him. He asked me to go to back into active ministry at Central Christian. The church was in disarray as their associate had run off with a church member, and the very large congregation was in crisis. I said, “Charles I don’t even believe in God right now”. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “That doesn’t matter, I have known you Mark, since you were 9. I know your heart and I know you belong in ministry. I need you.” That day I began to do something I said I would never do—work in a local church.
Slowly but surely I began to heal. I could have never done it without the support of my parents and Central Christian Church. My faith moved from my head to my heart that year. By January of 1982, I had given up on the
family carpet business to learn about how to be a pastor from the best model ever.
Over the next 40 years I was fortunate to serve in five great churches— Alamosa—Monte Vista—South Broadway—Cheyenne and Greeley. I did not run away from home, rather I crawled back home. In those 40 years I have gone from being a brash 30 something, to a slightly more grounded 70 something. I have collected a new family, a small pile of grandkids, and more amazing experiences and relationships than I ever imagined.
Today I am grateful that I had a home to come back to. Onward and Upward,