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.
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.
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.