I love Werthers. 

I love them not only because they bear a striking taste resemblance to the nectar of the gods–coffee–but because of Bill Tolar.

When Highland Oaks launched the Plano campus in August of 2007, I will admit that I was a bit leary of who might show up. Would some of the brotherhood watch-dogs show up and make life miserable? Would the skeptics work to make sure things wouldn't succeed? In the end, the Plano campus proved to be a collection of outstanding Christian people. However, the launch was a time filled with uncertainty. But, God answered my prayers…in Bill Tolar.

Bill is an aged man. I'll guess he's pushing 75 or 80 now. He was former military, and was a "responder." That is, he loved to shout things out in class or during a service. 

Nearly every Sunday, I'd sneak up to Bill before service, and say, "hey." We'd chat for 30 seconds or so, and he'd always reach into his pocket and give me a dollar and a Werthers. I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA why he did it. Why in the world a dollar and Werthers? Why not a peso and a Starburst? Oh well.

Sometimes it would be waiting for me in my pew… a dollar and a Werthers. Other times, I'd have to go pick it up from the man himself.

Never failed. 

Every Sunday. 

In the hand or on the pew.

A dollar and a Werthers.

Eventually, Bill's health left him tethered to an oxygen tank. In the latter days of my time at Highland Oaks, I could hear it purr while I preached. Even though his health had rendered him barely able to catch his breath, he would always save it up to yell, upon conclusion of the sermon as I headed to the Dallas campus, "Love you Tim," or "Great job, Tim." 

Those who preach know that sometimes a word of encouragement on a tough day is manna in the wilderness. Bill was God's manna trafficer at the Plano campus.

The last time I saw him was the day I announced my resignation at Highland Oaks. Half-way through my statement, Bill yelled out, "We love you, Tim!" I was doing a pretty good job of holding it together until then. The floodgates opened. When I finished the statement, Bill, still attached to his oxygen tank and gasping for air, led a chorus of, We Love You With the Love of the Lord.

I will never forget it as long as I live.

About four months after our resignation and about a month into our new ministry at North County, a package arrived in the mail. The post-mark was Plano, Texas…

I opened the package…

Inside was a dollar bill and a Werthers for every Sunday we'd been gone.

My eyes went moist…I felt the throat-lump. I pictured Bill and his oxygen tank. And, I thanked God for the time we shared. I thanked God for all the encouraging manna-words God's people have blessed me with over the years…and for manna that was most welcome as the new guy in a new land.

These days, I put a Werthers in my pocket before I preach. 

Every Sunday.

It's not a lucky charm. It's a reminder of the beauty of God's people and the power of encouragement. And every Sunday I try to arm myself with a pocket full of verbal Werthers. A word of grace here or there can make all the difference.

This Sunday, or sooner…grab a handful of Werthers…and pass them out. 

Thank your preacher. Thank your elders. Thank those who teach the 2-year-olds and who fill the communion cups.

And thank God, for the Werthers you have received.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29)