I looked out on my patio in Las Cruces and saw an empty pair of shoes that had held the person of Bob Burgess only hours before. He and Peggy were so gracious to accompany us on the long trek from Baton Rouge to Las Cruces for our move to New Mexico. They came under the auspices of helping us get settled in our new home, but we know their main intent was to lend moral support and encouragement as we slowly separated ourselves from Louisiana and placed the vast state of Texas between Baton Rouge and Las Cruces. They kept us focused on the positive, planning for tomorrow, and getting our home ready for constant occupancy. They know what it means to move away from those your love and start a new life somewhere else.
That’s why, when I looked at my patio on the morning Bob and Peggy left Las Cruces to head home to Monroe and I saw his shoes (which he intended to leave behind. You’ll have to get him to tell you the story!) it was as if it was the sign that an angel had just stepped out of them and left them as a reminder of God’s special love and care for two of God’s children named Bill and Kay.
And then I started seeing non-existent, but oh so real shoes of so many other angels who have accompanied us on our journey the past twelve years. There were the shoes of the elderly, who loved on us like we were one of their children. There were the shoes of the babies that I have baptized and that we have welcomed into the world over the past years. Then the shoes of the youth – ah! The youth! They loved and cared for us enough to call me “B-Hutch” and Kay, “Ms. Kay” and we watched so many of them commit their lives to full-time Christian service as lay leaders and as those who would pursue seminary and ordination.
And I saw the shoes of the ordinands. Shoes I saw as I laid hands on their heads and stated, “Take thou authority.” And the shoes of the retiring clergy as they stepped up to the podium at Annual Conference and shared only a small portion of their journey, but so precious and special. And the active clergy who have worn holes in the soles of their shoes in trying to fulfill their calling of service to God’s people.
And then…..there are God’s people, the laity. Angels abound among the laity and their shoes are adorned with invisible wings and undeniable “angel dust” that sets them apart from the rest of the people and truly distinguishes them as “God messengers” – that’s what an angel is you know!
Thank you, servants of Christ in Louisiana for being God’s messengers to us and for walking alongside us for these past twelve years. And though your shoes may be empty when we look out on our patio, we can picture you standing in them, greeting us with a bright “Good Mornin’”, and offering to us your hand and your heart. We have indeed been blessed by you on the bayou and our lives will be strengthened forevermore as a result. God bless you for the gift of yourselves. Being your bishop and “first lady” was the greatest joy we have had in ministry.
I will begin my “interim bishop” duties in the New Mexico Conference on September 1. I’m eager to meet and greet God’s angels here and I’m going to get a good look at and assessment of their shoes!! I know that one day they will move on to a new mission as well, and it will just be their shoes left on my patio. But what a blessing that will be when I see them – either for real, or in my mind’s eye.
I will continue to pray for you, visit you in my thoughts, remembrances and dreams, and long for the day I see your face again. In the meantime, may you know that Kay and I love you deeply and will always do so. You became our brothers and sisters, our family. But you became more than that – you became as angels to us. May the years ahead find you on that road to perfection for which every Wesleyan longs and toward which we aspire. As Mr. Wesley said, “Do good. Do no harm. Stay in love with God.” If we do that, we will definitely be striving after that state of sanctification that only God can bestow and impart.
We have a wonderful casita at 1685 Stone Mountain Lane, Las Cruces, NM, 88011. And we have a guest room that will accommodate any one of you. You can sit on your own private patio and view the beautiful Organ Mountains and draw your strength for the day. We would love to have you visit! The light will be on and the latch string out.