It was the morning The Anniston Star carried the story about me accepting a job in Huntsville.
I stopped by the Sonic in Anniston to grab a quick breakfast on the way to the office.
When the attendant brought my food to the car, she said, “Someone already paid for you, and I can’t tell you who.”
I asked if she was sure it was for me, and she assured me it was.
I asked if it was someone who worked there, and she said no, but reminded me that she couldn’t tell me who it was.
I tipped her and thanked her.
I don’t know who bought my breakfast that morning, or if they even knew who I was, but that kind of kindness is what I’m going to miss about this corner of the world.
I’ve received phone calls and emails from many of you, offering me your best regards in my new endeavor.
I believe God has been sovereign in putting me here, sovereign in placing me at The Anniston Star, and sovereign in allowing me to write this column.
For six years now, your kindness and hospitality have allowed me into your home and your life on Saturday mornings.
You’ve embraced me and encouraged me with phone calls and letters and emails. You’ve welcomed me into your schools and churches and even your homes.
I’ve made many friends where I’ve served on civic boards — the Salvation Army, the Community Foundation, Ignite, United Cerebral Palsy, Oxford City Schools Education Foundation and Christian Women’s Job Corps. I’m convinced these people are among this community’s best and brightest.
I’m desperately going to miss my lunch bunch basketball crew, who join me in trying to recapture the glory days a few times a week.
I can’t start to name all the friends I’ve made, but one of them is Margaret Stedham, a resident at the Jacksonville nursing home.
She called me more than a year ago about one of my columns, and we struck up a relationship. I’ve visited her several times, and she makes such a big deal over the CDs of my sermons that I give her.
But it’s such a small thing compared to what she does for me. She prays for me and my family. She writes me letters of encouragement, and she sends me cards on my birthday and on my wedding anniversary.
She treats me like I’m a part of her family, and I can’t repay her for that.
To you pastors who have invited me to speak at your churches, I know the level of trust it takes to give another minister access to those over which you have charge. I thank you for putting your arms around me and calling me your brother.
To Christian Fellowship, you have trusted me with the baptizing of your children, the last rites of your loved ones, the feeding of your souls. No, I’m not leaving you immediately. I’ll be there until you find your next pastor, the right pastor ... no matter how long it takes.
Yes, God has been sovereign, and I believe it is his sovereignty that has opened the door for this new opportunity.
It would be easy to resist this move and continue basking in the glow of what God has already done in my life. But I’m honored to pull up stakes and start over, with a steady belief that my God is as sovereign in Madison County as he is in Calhoun County.
Finally, to my coworkers: You will always be special to me. I’ve never told you this, but I pray for my job and all of my coworkers every day.
That won’t change.
I love each of you, and I’ll miss you.