I wonder if there does not come a time in every preacher’s life when he realizes that the books on his library shelves need to move? At least in my case it is move again. Some of my volumes have been boxed and crated, shipped and hauled from Georgia and Alabama, thru Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida and now back to my native state where I began to collect this treasure. Though much of the contents of these volumes have moved into my mind and some, maybe more than I realize myself, have moved into my heart and become a very part of who I am.
These books have been my friends, my guides, my teachers, my companions, and just the sight of them here brings a sense of security and assurance and comfort to my soul. I must pause here to acknowledge a debt of gratitude for my Mother who gave me a love for reading. I am so often reminded of that part of an old verse from the poet Strickland Gillilan, (with an editorial insert added by me)
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
(but) Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.
Some of the most treasured volumes in my meager library are those which were passed on to me from older preachers. A few of them had reached the stage in life and ministry that I now face. Others volumes have come from my contemporaries who knew just what I needed and had the grace and generosity to pass them to me.
So now, it is my privileged position as a squeaky and creaky old boxcar in a train ready to deliver the cargo. But first I must complete the laborious process of sorting thru and culling out and passing on and hanging on. But what about that stack or box I will label ‘passing on’? Are there any young preachers into whose life and ministry I may invest by sharing my treasures? Who are they? Does any young preacher still read from the printed page or have all entered the electronic age of Wikipedia, Kindle, iBooks or some other poor and lifeless substitute?
I confess that this task at hand is with greatly mixed emotions. There is Thanksgiving for having possessed and used these gems and jewels; I have joy for a privilege of sharing wealth; I take comfort in knowing that I have young men coming behind me who’ll love and appreciate the nuggets of gold and diamonds of beauty hidden on some dog-eared page.
And yet there is a tear from my heart like that of saying goodbye to an old and dear friend.